This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shambhavi Saxena. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Should Educational Institutions Offer LGBTQ Scholarships?

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Back in the 1800s, men resisted women’s suffrage, and not too long after that, white Americans resisted political rights for African Americans. Today, we’re witnessing something similar, as a dominant cisgender-heterosexual culture protests against the burgeoning queer movement all over the world. An argument that has now become popular is that gender and sexual minorities are manipulating social norms to their own advantage, holding everyone at gunpoint with words like “hate-crime” and “discrimination.” What with all their marriage equality, and pride parades, and “crazy ass pronouns,” it’s like the queers are hell bent on ‘world domination.’ Or something.

So when the concept of scholarships for LGBTQ students is floated, you can imagine the kind of criticism that follows.

Last month, the University of Louisville made news with a perfect score on the Campus Pride Index, because of its LGBTQ-oriented programmes and scholarships – including one for students of colour. Several other foundations and non-profits in the USA also award funds to queer students and allies, and it can be anything between $1,000 and $28,000. The rationale behind this is the same as most scholarships awarded to minority or low-income group students. It’s a kind of affirmative action: the state or an organization invests in a student, in the hope that they will use their resources to better their own prospects, and in turn, their community’s too. It is a targeted effort to provide leadership skills, academic resources, and the opportunity to do community service to queer students. And the intended outcome is to move LGBTQ people into various vocations, and wear out the culture of job discrimination that they have always faced.

But these scholarships have also been seen as “special treatment,” “queer appeasement” or just a way to earn “diversity brownie points.” All of this sounds kinda harsh, and you can bet on your mama’s apple pie that it’s coming from some straight devil’s advocate, but is the discomfort with LGBTQ scholarships really all that unfounded?

Like racial and ethnic minorities, women, or persons with disabilities, queer people also face systemic oppression when they are denied their right to privacy, denied admission to certain spaces, and deliberately left out of policies and policy-making. So having certain schemes to include queer people in mainstream society – as India has been doing with its trans population – is a welcome move. But when our identities are compounds of our class, caste, religion, gender, language, occupation and more, it becomes difficult to view “alternate sexualities” as detached from all those things. It’s in that context that scholarships for LGBTQ people based on their LGBTQ identity alone seems misguided, and even pointless in the grander scheme of things.

We are a country where you are more likely to be denied a flat if you’re Muslim than if you’re gay. Because people notice your name first, and your sexual orientation later – or never, if you’re careful. And even though the closet is pretty horrible, it still offers a degree of protection.

This is where the debate tilts towards a “merit-based” system, but of course, this only works with a level-playing field. In stratified societies like ours, merit depends on access to resources, and access depends on class, caste and gender too. Heck, even women are still minorities in several professions! A merit-based system might mean that a gay Brahmin man who can actually pay his way through school is more likely to receive a scholarship than a heterosexual person from a low-income background, and that’s kind of messed up.

Whether or not scholarships should be made available to people based on their sexuality is a difficult question to answer. But what it has done is expose some widely held viewpoints that do seem to be worrying. Even the more progressive pockets of our society will complain and say: “Why do we have to change our behaviour to suit them?” Because assessing and reassessing the role we play in creating an inclusive environment is an inconvenience. Because creating the conditions for equal opportunities is somehow “minority privileges.”

Even if we were to settle on these scholarships as a positive, it isn’t likely they will come to India anytime soon. But in the mean time, putting LGBTQ Resource Centres on campuses is definitely something we can do to move towards queer-inclusive education.

You must be to comment.

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Similar Posts

By Suryatapa Mukherjee

By Ungender Legal Advisory

By Meghna Mehra

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below