'Integration must happen in school and college first'

'Integration must happen in school and college first'

The recent decision of Bangalore University to reserve one seat in each of its 52 post-graduate disciplines, beginning this year,  is a  momentous step towards bringing sexual minorities into the mainstream in education. But  the move has its share of limitations.

The move has been welcomed by transgenders and activists, but they admit that it  will not result in a transformation. “Enrolment in high school, PUC or degree courses is abysmally low, what to speak of PG courses?” says Akayiamma, who works with Sangama, a not-for-profit organisation that works with transgenders.

Akayiamma says she dropped out of school after failing in Mathematics in Class 10. She took up a short-term training course in Electronics, but dropped out again, citing discrimination.

Very, very few among the City’s 6,000 transgenders reach the undergraduate level and even fewer get a degree, so they feel that admission should be reserved for them in PU courses and at the UG-level.

Suma, another young transgender, alleges that she was forced by the college authorities to quit BBM in her third semester in 2005.

“My classmates and lecturers would ridicule me,” she says, refusing to name the college as her brother is still studying there. When asked why she did not apply for a distance education course, she claimed financial constraints prevented her from signing up for such a programme.

The stories of Basudeva Somani and Viji are no different either. While Somani says she dropped out of BCom final year due to “pestering and failure in exams”, Viji says she quit studies after failing in SSLC because of lack of support.

Proposal gets thumbs up from NLSIU students 

The proposal by Prof R Venkata Rao, VC of National Law School of India University (NLSIU), to include transgender students has been welcomed warmly by law students in Bangalore.

The proposal will be discussed in the upcoming CLAT Committee meeting, according to sources.

Many students see this as a proposal which can give the marginalised groups the much-required access to quality education.

“By recognising a distinct category, NLSIU has not only upheld the dignity and rights of the transgenders, but has also given a positive signal to society. Most youngsters have an open mind. They dislike the marginalisation of transgenders,” says Lipsa Acharya, a fourth year student of NLSIU.

Avanthika Thakur, fourth year student of NLSIU“Accepting that someone is different is the first step towards respecting them. I believe that the proposal will convert our talk on broad-mindedness into action,” says Avanthika Thakur, a second year undergraduate student at NLSIU.

A few students say that the proposal should have been mooted long ago. “The proposal to include the ‘other’ category in the application form would be a great human rights’ initiative. It would give true meaning to the Right to Equality, enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution,” says Jagriti Singh, a fourth year law student.

“Mentoring would help such students to cope with issues which they would be unwilling to discuss with their family,” adds Lipsa.

Arunima Rajan

What the VC says...

Bangalore University Vice Chancellor N Prabhu Dev acknowledged that the quota might have no takers in the beginning but hoped that it would pick up pace later.

 “Frankly, I do not expect a crowd of transgenders to seek admission. But a few disciplines may find takers,” he told this newspaper.

Several transgenders who this reporter spoke with had expressed a desire to see such a scheme in place at the UG-level. “The University cannot instruct affiliated colleges about reserving seats for transgenders at the UG-level. That comes under the purview of the Department of Collegiate Education,” Dr Prabhu  Dev said.

“A few transgenders contacted me and expressed their gratitude. But it ended there,” he said, adding that no active campaign had been launched to step up enrollment. On integrating transgender students in the classroom, he said that the university would deal “sternly with cases of physical and mental harassment”.  Psychologists would be roped in to counsel the class as whole if required, he said. The university would provide facilities like separate restrooms for transgender students, he added.

Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui

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