Kochi school makes a difference as transgenders face tough life despite 2014 SC verdict

Following the 2014 landmark Supreme Court judgment recognising transgenders as third gender, several organisations in Kerala came forward to bring the sexual minority to the mainstream of society by providing them employment.

However, most of these programmes did not benefit the transgenders as they were not equipped to take up the jobs. Now, the transgenders have come forward to find a solution to the problem by opening an alternate learning centre in the state’s commercial capital of Kochi to train school dropouts to access the opportunities offered to them.

The centre named Sahaj International School will help those who have dropped out of school to continue their education and appear for Class 10 and 12 examinations. The school with boarding facility will also provide soft skill training to the transgenders.

The centre operated by Trans India Foundation in collaboration with National Institute for Open Schooling (NIOS) will initially have 10 transgender students. Noted transgender activist Vijayraja Mallika, who heads the school, told the Firstpost that they will admit more after reviewing the progress in the first three months.

"We have selected six students from 14 applicants representing different sections of the transgender community. We have reserved one seat for female-to-male and one for the disabled. The others will be male-to-female persons. The school has arranged sponsors for all the students. They will pay for their food, accommodation and studies," Mallika said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The school has opted for teachers from the transgender community as a measure to give a sense of protection and encouragement to the transgenders, who faced discrimination in normal schools. The curriculum is designed to promote inclusive education that will make the transgenders eligible to find decent job and lead a dignified life, Mallika said.

Transgenders have welcomed the initiative, saying it may help them get employment and become economically independent. A Anil, a board member of Sangama, an NGO fighting for the rights of sexual minorities, said transgenders in the state were unable to complete their education because of the hostile atmosphere they face in normal schools.

A survey conducted among transgenders by the Social Justice Department of Kerala government found that 58 percent of transgender students dropped out before completing 10th grade (24 percent of transgender students drop out even before completion of 9th grade) due to harassment and gender related negative experiences at school. The school systems that promise to shelter and educate children neglected the transgender. Among those who had to leave school due to harassment, nearly half reported of having experienced negative environment even in their own homes. The survey showed that 78 percent transgender have not revealed their gender identity due to fear of discrimination.

Anil told the Fristpost that transgenders were unable to get jobs in government and governmental organisations as the minimum qualification prescribed by them for even fourth grade jobs is Class 12. Though many government agencies have offered jobs to the transgender they have not relaxed the minimum qualification.

“The Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) had invited applications from TGs for various posts. However, only 36 were found educationally qualified for the advertised jobs. We don’t know how many of them will finally pass the tests and be appointed,” Anil said.

The agency commissioned for recruiting employees for the Metro said that the minimum qualification for a job in the organisation was 10th pass. It also has jobs requiring degree qualification. The agency said that only those who have these basic qualifications will be appointed in KMRL. Anil said that unless KMRL relax the qualification its offer will remain on paper since majority of the transgenders in the state have not completed their education. He said that a Kerala government programme to introduce a taxi service to be run by the transgenders had also not taken off as they could not find enough transgenders with the required skills.

He hoped that the Sahaj School may help the transgenders get not only educational qualification but also the skills required for accessing the opportunities offered to them by various agencies. However, Anil does not think this alone will end the woes of the transgenders.

He said that many qualified transgenders were finding it difficult to get jobs suiting their skills. The Social Justice Department survey found that more than 70 percent of them had at least one experience of being denied job due to the gender.

Even those who have got jobs were facing harassment at work places. The survey found that 89 percent reported of being mistreated at work places. Mallika said that the situation was the same for transgenders across the country. Even those occupying higher posts are not free from harassment.

She pointed out that Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay, who was the first transgender in India to be appointed as a college principal, was forced to resign due to "non-cooperation" from a section of teachers and students. Dr Bandopadhyay, who was appointed as the Principal of Krishnagar Women's College at Nadia in West Bengal on 9 June, 2015 stepped out after a year-and-a-half in office.

“If this is the plight of a highly qualified person like Bandopadhyay, who had the full support of the local administration, we can imagine how lesser mortals will be treated. PGs will be able to get their rightful place in the society only when people change their mindset towards them,” she added.

Anil said that transgenders in Kerala were being discriminated in every aspect of life. He pointed out that the transgenders were not safe even in their homes. More than 30 percent of the 25,000 transgenders in the state reported mistreatment at homes. This has forced many transgenders to hide their sexual identity.

The Kerala survey found that 51 percent transgenders had concealed their gender identity from their families because of the mistreatment. This was causing problems for the transgenders with their families forcing them to marry members of non-conforming gender. Two-thirds of the transgenders surveyed had been forced to marry women and one-fourth among them had children too.

Though the Kerala was the first state in India to bring out a policy for transgenders, Anil said that none of the concerned departments had taken any step to implement the policy that was announced in November 2014. The policy aims to end the discrimination against transgenders, help them live with dignity and enjoy a life free from all forms of violence.

It seeks to ensure that all government department and public authorities refrain from discriminating against transgenders and provide members of the community easy access to education, public transport, health, social security and other services. Parents who desert or abuse their gender non-conforming children will be punished, as will delinquent police officials guilty of human rights violations against transgenders.

If these provisions are enforced, the woes of transgenders will end. Unfortunately, the transgenders have to go a long way to find a place of pride in the conservative Kerala society.

Updated Date: Jan 03, 2017 18:45 PM

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