By Mayank Jain:
Official statistics report that there are 5,00,000 transgenders in the country. But they also have one of the lowest literacy rates of just 46% as compared to 74% literacy in the general population. Literacy breeds unemployment, which breeds poverty which again breeds illiteracy and the cycle continues. Representation in educational institutions and opening doors for them has always been a good start.
University of Delhi has turned a page and inked a new chapter. The varsity has finally allowed transgender applicants to enrol in post graduate courses from the current year. The policy will be extended to undergraduate courses as well starting next year, 2015-2016 when application forms will give space to the third gender.
The better part about this inclusion is that teachers’ recruitment forms also have the third gender category, which signals a healthier and equalizing playing field for the applicants from all genders.
“We had planned to start transgender admissions in undergraduate courses from this year but could not do so due to administrative reasons. From 2015-16 academic session, we will be introducing the third gender option in centralized admission forms and also make necessary policies for their admission,” DU’s registrar Alka Sharma is quoted as saying by the Times of India.
The queerÂ community has struggled and demanded a recognition in areas like education for a long time now. The move by DU is a pleasant first step towards recognizing other genders by one of the largest universities of India, and gives an opportunity for other universities situated around the country to follow suit.
As per the census of 2011, around 4.9 lakh people checked the third gender box in the survey which is a very big population demographic. Actual number of transgenders in the country is expected to be even 6-7 times higher than this and it is a big chunk of our population to deny acceptance into universities because they don’t fit into the two prescribed categories.
The move has been welcomed by queer activists and the organizations leading movements for gender rights around the nation, as a victory. However, their cheer has come with a caution that the university should also work on the sensitization of students and prevent ostracization after they are admitted into the colleges.
We spoke to Harrish Iyer, LGBTQI rights activist and he echoed the sentiment, “The path to equality has never been easy. And it takes all fragments of the society to work towards it. DU stands tall as an inspiration. But it cannot stop with admissions alone, they have to commit themselves to equally and unequivocally stand against transphobia and the ‘other’-ing of any student or staff on the basis of caste, creed, religion, age, gender or sexuality.”
While we will have to wait and see how this move plays out on ground at the university and how quickly other universities take the opportunity to act first, the controversies have already started brewing up about the mode of admission as prescribed by the authorities. The postgraduate students have been admitted in a special category under the Other Backward Classes quota in the university, which hasn’t gone down too well with a lot of people.
The argument that encroachment into OBC’s quota by the transgender applicants is unfair is gaining fire. Harish Iyer is hopeful that the boundaries will blur and soon a concrete system will be devised to give representation and ensure equal opportunity.
“In an ideal world, there would be no borders and no discrimination and no reservations. We don’t live in an ideal world. The Transgender at this stage needs to be encouraged, so, reservations will help. But eventually, it would be ideal if the lines blur and no one is the other – reserved category”.