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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 33, New Delhi, August 1, 2020

Status of Transgender Students In Schools Part of Our Current Education System | Bhumika Rajdev

Friday 31 July 2020

by Bhumika Rajdev

July 30, 2020

According to the 2011 census, the total population of transgender is around 4,87,803 out of which 57.06% are literate as compared to 74% of the total population. In 2011, there were 54,854 trans children in the age bracket 0-6 years. Therefore, these children are in the age group 10-16 years today and they should have been in our schools. As per supreme court judgement in 2014, they should be recognised as ‘Third gender’ and should get admission under the category of "disadvantaged group" defined by the Right to Education Act 2009 (RTE).

But, the recent declaration of CBSE results of class 10th and 12th shows a different picture. As per CBSE press note, there were 1889878 candidates in Class 10th and 1206893 candidates in Class 12th. Among the students who registered for class 10th exam, 7,88,195 were girls, 11,01,664 were boys and only 19 were transgenders. Whereas for Class 12th, 5,22,819 were girls, 6,84,068 were boys, and only 6 were transgenders.

This prompts a few important questions:

Where are those thousands of children who were recorded in census data? What is their educational status? Why aren’t they part of mainstream schools? Why are they being constantly neglected by our education system? What are the challenges faced by them?

This article attempts to understand status of transgenders in India and their access to education. It also highlights challenges faced by transgenders in school as well as in society.

Ignorance towards transgender students

CBSE results for class 10th and 12th was declared on 13 July 2020 and 15 July 2020 respectively. There is a spike in pass percentage of class 10th and 12th this year. Pass percentage of class 10th has increased by 0.36% and that of class 12th by 5.38%. It has been considered a significant achievement by various education departments across India. The HRD Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal congratulated teachers and students for good results. However, the pass percentage of transgenders of class 10th has decreased by 15.79% and of class 12th by 16.66 %. This data has been completely ignored by media and educational bodies. [1]

The neglect towards the percentages is reflective of our cold attitude towards transgenders in our society. Trans bullying is a widely experienced phenomenon across the Country. ‘The life of transgender people is a daily battle as there is no acceptance anywhere and they are ostracized from society and also ridiculed. They face high levels of stigma in almost every sphere of their life such as health, schools/colleges, employment, social schemes and entitlement.’ [2]

“I was born a biological male but as I grew older, I gradually experienced changes in my attitude and mannerism. I felt and acted more as a girl. I was not comfortable being a boy and I didn’t want to live my life as a boy. Then I got admission in a government boys’ school in a small town near Chandigarh. I was not comfortable studying there. I was harassed and sexually abused by my school mates because I was effeminate. And when I made complaints to the teachers and the principal, they did not believe me. I felt very alone at that time.” [3]

Due to lack of awareness towards gender identity, not only students but many a time teacher also get involved in bullying and harassment.

“When I was in 12th standard, one of my English teachers asked me to read something aloud. When I took my textbook in hand, I was not able to read in a loud, or in a masculine way as she expected. She took a stick and hit me and abused me using derogatory words in Malayalam, like chantupottu and annum pennumkettathu. The entire class was looking at me. I was crying in the crowd and I just immediately ran away, vomiting. Till my final year exam, I did not sit in that class. During her hour, I would stand outside. I did not speak with her. I was really closed up after that. I was not [4]

It clearly highlights the lack of sensitivity and awareness in our educational institutions. The challenges faced by transgender students in our schools are real and require redress by our education system. Our infrastructure and mindsets are divided into heterosexual binary of male and female. From school uniform to seating arrangements, from assembly to washrooms, this binary expression does not acknowledge their existence. This impacts their mental health to a great extent resulting in high dropout rates, and failure in exams.

Transgender students outside schools

As per a report 2017 of the National Human Rights Commission, 79% of transgenders are either living in rented rooms or sharing accommodation with others, 52.61% of transgenders have a monthly income below Rs. 10,000. [5] It clearly indicates their poor standards of living. Most of them do not have a voter identity card or Aadhaar card which excludes them from their constitutional rights and government schemes. The maximum population of transgenders do not have access to various career opportunities due to lack of identity proofs. And even when they get the chance to be part of mainstream occupations, they face verbal and sexual harassment or frequent bullying and discrimination by co-workers.

‘The other fields where this community feels neglected are the inheritance of property or adoption of a child. They are often pushed to the periphery as a social outcaste and many may land up begging and dance. This is, by all means, human trafficking. They even engage themselves as sex workers for survival. Lack of adequate education and lack of employment opportunities, they are forced into sex work and begging.’ [6]

The socio-economic condition of the transgenders in our country clearly indicates that education is out of reach for them. Their major concern is survival, and education is still a luxury. Hence, making schools and educational institutions ‘trans-inclusive’ is the urgent need of the time.

In other words, Transgenders in general and transgender students, in particular, are being constantly ignored by the governments and policymakers. Just acknowledging them separate category of gender to tick in forms or giving reservations will not solve their problems. Transgender students need constant representation and support in the education system so that stigmas pertaining to transgenders can be addressed. Gender-inclusive education and curriculum can only lead to transformation in mainstream social perceptions. As Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender activist once said, “I don’t want anything else, just treat me with dignity and normalise our existence in the society. I don’t want your sympathy. I want your love and respect.” [7] And this longing for dignity and love can only end with gender-sensitive social spaces and gender-inclusive education system.

(Bhumika Rajdev, works as a social science teacher in a school in Delhi)


[1CBSE Result Analysis class x and xii

[2Education of Transgenders in India: Status and Challenges Dr Rajkumar Assistant Professor, Department of Education, ChaoudhariDevilal University, Sirsa, Haryana

[3Inclusion of Transgenders in Educational Institutions, A Manual for Educators, Developed by the Humsafar Trust

[4Living with dignity – Sexual orientation and gender identity based human rights violation in housing, work and public spaces in India, International Commission of Jurists, 2019 https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/India-Living-with-dignity-Publications-Reports-thematic-report-2019-ENG.pdf

[5Study on Human Rights of Transgender as a Third Gender, National Human Rights Commission, February 2017 https://nhrc.nic.in/sites/default/files/Study_HR_transgender_03082018.pdf

[6Transgender Children’s Education And Their Reengagement In Society Satish Chandra (Assistant Professor, Department of M.Ed., Rakshpal Bahadur Teachers Training Institute, Bareilly, U.P., India)

[7Interview on NMTV by Dy. Editor Sana Warsia.

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