IGNOU opens doors to hijra, transgender communities

Now they can go for any distance learning course at the varsity

Education will not be a far fetched dream for transgender and hijra communities any more as IGNOU has opened admissions for distance education in all streams even for the "other" category.

Himadri Roy, associate professor from the School of Gender and Development Studies, IGNOU, said, “We are the first university to begin this in the country. There are courses for dropouts to finish their class 12 studies and then opt for higher education through distance learning.”

The professor from Indira Gandhi National Open University was speaking at the national consultation programme held in Delhi on Saturday.

Community members demanded equal rights at the event organised by Pehchan, a five-year programme that strengthens and builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations in 17 states to advance HIV prevention.

The consultation programme brought together over 100 representatives of transgender and hijra communities and stakeholders from the government and policy bodies.

“We are determined to scale up the efforts to reach out to these two communities with HIV prevention programme and services. However, we will also urge the government to facilitate linkages to ensure that members get equal rights,” said Aradhana Johri, additional secretary, National Aids Control Organisation (NACO).

Gauri Sawant, general secretary, Transgender and Hijra Welfare Board in Maharashtra highlighted that cases of violence go unreported as the present social and legal environment is oppressive towards these communities.

“Due to their different gender identity, they are denied opportunities to earn a living, study, and get access to health services. Even changing their names and sex in official documents is not easy,” she said.

Many lamented that due to few job opportunities, they resort to sex trade and begging for survival. Participants said there are no legal procedures for Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) which prevents them from getting their identity cards made.
Abhina Aher, the programme manager of Pehchan, said they face an identity crisis even in Delhi. “There is absolutely no linkage with the government. Even for SRS everything is done in a hush- hush manner. Health facilities are poor compared to other states,” said Abhina.

Even getting a rented place in Delhi is difficult as members of these communities pay double of what any other person would pay.

“More than 35 per cent of us are 12th pass but we are not employed because our certificates have male names. The government should start thinking beyond HIV/AIDS for us. Travelling in the bus or Metro is worse as people harass us,” said Rudrani, a member of the transgender community.

In depth discussions were held on issues such as social entitlements, legal status, violence, economic vulnerabilities and feminisation.

Community leaders from different states   have chalked out a list of issues and challenges which will be handed over to stakeholders.

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