Higher Education Department of Kerala has issued a GO(Govt Order) asking all Higher Educational Institutions in the state to reserve two seats, for all courses across colleges and Universities, for Transgender Students. The Social Justice Department, along with other departments, initiated this major step towards inclusive education. The Government Order was addressed to the Director of Collegiate Education, Registrars of Arts and Professional universities and the Department of Higher Education.
However, the GO is silent on the medico-legal angle in the matter of sanctioning 2 additional seats. For instance, there is no clarity on how a transperson would be identified and admitted and this has raised concerns among the Trans community.
Thanu, a second-year student of Political Science in Maharajas College told TWJ that the provision for reservation was already there but in Maharajas college, there were only male and female columns. Now, things have changed and the college even has a queer-friendly bathroom.
“I am very happy about this reservation. This is a great victory for the community as some transgender students have expressed their interest in pursuing studies”, she said.
Praveen Nath, first BA student of English Literature in Maharajas College expressed optimism about the effect of reservation for the Transgender community. He said that there was already a provision for reservation of two percent seats for transgender students. As per that, the college authorities should have given them admission right away. But the college or university officials were unaware of it which made them (Praveen and Thanu) file a complaint to the Department of Higher Education. The Department responded by taking a decision to issue the government order.
“This is a great victory and I hope that more Transgender students will avail this opportunity,” he added.
Gee Semmalar, Queer activist, actor and writer told TWJ that the govt has a responsibility to ensure that trans students do not face discrimination and violence in schools. He said that most trans people drop out before reaching higher education and the announcement for quota doesn’t make any mention of the cut-off, age relaxation etc.
“What if there are two seats reserved in every course for trans students and what if there are more than 2 applicants for it? What is the procedure then?,” he asked. “It seems like the Kerala govt is becoming used to passing statements and not thinking through about implementation when it comes to trans friendly policies,” Gee added.
The CPI(M)-led LDF government had recently decided to provide shelter homes for TGâ€™s who would join the continuing education programme of the State Literacy Mission. A recent survey conducted by the Mission has found that around 50 percent members of the transgender community survive on a monthly income of Rs 1,000 or less.
According to the Survey, only 28.53 percent of the surveyed had a monthly income between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000, 19.46 percent earned between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 a month. A total of 20.35 percent of TGâ€™s surveyed were unemployed, and over 30 percent were engaged in some form of self-employment. The objective of the move is to provide the marginalized group better opportunities for higher education and bring them to the forefront of society, official sources said.
Â Social Justice Department got into the act when the State Transgender Justice Board drew its attention to the plight of transgender students in securing admission in universities and colleges and their survival in such institutions once their gender identity becomes public knowledge. The Transgender Justice Board, which has representatives from different transpersons groups like Sheetal Shyam, Sonu, and Surya, took up the matter with the Social Justice Department after three transgender students approached them with the complaint that they were finding it difficult to gain admission on merit at Maharajaâ€™s College, Ernakulam.
The State had also announced a Transgender Policy in 2015 and followed it up with a slew of measures aimed at giving greater visibility and power to the transgender community.Â In February this year, the State Social Justice Department constituted a Transgender Cell to provide assistance and support the functioning of State Transgender Justice Board and District Transgender Justice Committees besides formulating and coordinating the transgender welfare. The Social Justice Department had also initiated a scheme for providing scholarship to Transgender students from Class 7 onwards studying in State government/ government-aided/self-financing schools. The department is already providing financial assistance to transgender students at the rate of â‚¹1,000 a month for 10 months for students from Classes 7 to 10, â‚¹1,500 to TG students studying in Plus One and Plus Two and â‚¹2,000 a month for 10 months to TG students pursuing diploma, degree, PG and professional courses.
As per the stateâ€™s Transgender Policy 2015 document, 58 percent of the Transgender students drop out before completing 10th grade. Apart from this, 24 percent of Transgender students drop out even before the completion of 9th grade. The reason varies from severe harassment that makes studies impossible to gender-related negative experiences at school. The document stated that among the students who had to leave school due to harassment, nearly half were also facing negative experiences at home. In fact, the lack of special educational quota or reservation for transgender students was also one among the listed reasons.
As a part of the series of programmes eyeing at the upliftment of the transgender community, in January 2018, Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA) rolled out a continuous education programme â€œSamanwayaâ€. Under Samanwaya, many from the transgender community registered for class 4, 7, 10 and higher secondary equivalent courses across the state. By the end of June this year, shelter homes and scholarships were also introduced for the candidates under Samanwaya.