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‘This Proved To Be A Miracle For Us’: Kerala Creates College Quota For Trans Students

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Three transgender students from Ernakulam in Kerala were refused admission in a college due to several reasons, one of them being their gender identity. The students then approached the State Transgender Justice Cell and filed a complaint against the college, which then forwarded the request to the state government. The State Justice Board then informed the ministry in control who passed it forward quickly because the academic session is going to start soon. They issued the order in the favour of the queer community, Theertha Sarvika, one of the three students, informed me.

“Maharajas College in Ernakulam provided a column for the transgenders, so three of us applied for the admission. We got ranks in the list that came out. When I went to the college, they got to know that I am a trans, and so they changed the list. The students having lower ranks than mine were selected and I was rejected,” they say.

The Kerala state government has issued an order reserving two additional seats exclusively for transgender students in all courses in universities and affiliated arts and science colleges in the state. The good news for the queer community of Kerala is out and making people proud.

Prijith, the founder and member of Queerythm, a 24×7 helpline for the LGBTQ Community in Kerala says, “It’s a victory for the community and a reflection of the NALSA (National Legal service authority) judgement. The Government is taking steps towards the betterment of the LGBTQ community and we are thankful towards them.”

Theertha, being a satisfied receiver of the new order, adds, “When we compare ourselves with other students, we were totally boycotted from the community and now it’s a huge opportunity for us to move further.”

The transgender community has always faced backlash and rejection from people around them. It is observed that there has been a high number of dropouts from transgender students across India. Queerythm gets calls from college going students who complain mostly about getting bullied and harassed on campus. They are unaware as to how they can deal with the stigma.

“When Praveen (another transgender student), and I openly accepted our sexuality, he faced rejection from his classmates and teachers. I struggled a lot for my education,” Theertha says.

After the victorious step taken by the Kerala Government, there is still an insecurity in the minds of the activists and transgender students. The question that how will the colleges welcome their new students, still sticks in the minds of the survivors. Prijith expresses his concern and says, “We already have a guideline by UGC but its time to revise the statement and ensure a better and a queer-friendly campus for the students.”

Srijith, another queer activist in Chennai, further explains, “This is an order to be celebrated, but is very late. A student who passed out from school in 2014, will now be able to join the college, in 2018. She is four years late in her education.”

Srijith believes that there is a financial crisis faced by a lot of transgender people and so they resort to sex work after attending college. He says, “I request on behalf of the community, that the Government provide free accommodation and education facilities for the community so that it becomes easier for them to attain their rights.” He also feels that the number of seats reserved is too less and that it should at least be increased to five.

Theertha expressed, “As a step towards mixing ourselves into the community, we will mingle with the fellow classmates and will make them realise that we are also one amongst them, we also have the right to education. We request the colleges to open up hostels and washrooms for us. We don’t talk about placing a special trans washroom, but a common one for all the genders.”

Many queer activists believe that the society needs to respect the LGBTQ group and not give them the negative environment. All the citizens have the Right to Education and it should not be taken away on the basis of gender.

“We are fully satisfied because we can only move from a small scale, a two-seat reservation is a huge gift to us. I believe in miracles, and this proved to be a miracle for us,” Theertha says.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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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.

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