Sitting in a 10 feet by 10 feet room, professor Rajesh from the Department of Adult, Continuing Education and Extension waits for visitors every day. A poster at its entrance reads, ‘Transgender Resource Centre’. But not a single student from the community turns up.
It has been over six months since the centre was established at Delhi University’s North Campus to offer counselling to transgender students. No transgender student enrolled in a regular course this year—or since 2015, when DU introduced the third gender category in its admission form. The university received 101 applications in the category this year—the highest in four years.
“Every year we receive applications from (transgender) students but no one joins regular classes. They prefer the School of Open Learning.(SOL) This time, we decided to establish a resource centre to provide counselling but it did not help,” said Rajesh, who goes by his first name. The centre, set up before admissions began, received many queries. “But, when we invited them, no one turned up,” Rajesh said. The SOL, which offers graduate and post-graduate courses through correspondence, does not maintain any record of transgender student enrolment. Their admission form includes a third gender category, too. Among the aspirants was Simmi, 21. After completing school in 2014, Simmi had to leave her home and join a ‘toli’ (a group of eunuchs who perform at ceremonies).
“I want to resume education with my new name, but (DU) officials said I can’t do that as long as it is not updated in my school mark sheet,” she said. In late 2015, DU amended its change of name policy, stating it would only be possible to do so after the student had affected a similar change in school records. However, earlier that year, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had notified that a student’s name change would only be permitted before their school results are published. This creates a tough situation for transgender students, many of whom can only express their gender identity — and change it in official documents — after they have passed out of school
Their identity after completing school?” asked Rehana, a 27-year-old student of BA (programme) who got enrolled with her birth name in 2014.
“The issue here is CBSE does not change the name in the mark sheet and passing certificate, once the results are announced. Some transgender students moved court seeking relief in ‘name change’ . The matter is still subjudice,” said a member of DU’s admission committee .
The case they are referring to is of Riya Sharma, a 2017 SOL graduate who filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, after she was prevented from sitting for her second-year exams, because she looked different from the photo in her identity card. Though the university issued a new card with a changed photo and ‘Other’ gender identity, it did not change her name.
Another 24-year-old aspirant, who does not wish to be named, said that she wanted to take admission in a women’s college to avoid “slurs” and “humiliation”. But, the centre informed her that the norms currently do not permit a transgender woman to enroll in a women’s college. “It’s impossible for me to even think about joining a co-ed college. Neither students nor teachers are sensitive about our issues. There are no separate toilets for us,” she said.
The resource centre hopes to amend some existing norms. “We are soon going to meet the stakeholders and form a committee to take some decisions regarding the change of name and admission in women’s colleges. Also, we will push for transgender-friendly infrastructure on the campus,” said Rajesh.
Meanwhile, experts said that things have to be changed from the start. “The dropout rate of transgender students at school level is very high. And then hardly 13% transgender students who could complete schools join higher education,” said Amrita Sarkar of Saathii, an NGO headquartered in Chennai, which works for strengthening HIV prevention and treatment, particularly among the transgender communities. The NGO had conducted a study in 2016 to look into the issues related to access of transgender communities to education, employment and health.