Following a University Grants Commission order, a category for transgenders will feature on the forms from the new academic year

The third gender will find an identity in the application forms provided by the Mumbai University (MU) from the academic year of 2015-16. Following a University Grants Commission (UGC) order on the same topic, university officials have decided to include transgenders as a separate category, apart from male and female options on the admission forms. This is a huge step towards accepting the transgender community as part of the society.

Mumbai: Transgenders at a community gathering. File photo
Transgenders at a community gathering. File photo

“From the next academic year, all admission forms provided by colleges affiliated to MU will have a separate identity. Similarly, all colleges will conduct sensitisation programmes for their students as well as staff members to welcome these students with open arms,” said Mrudul Nile, director, department of students’ welfare, MU. He added that the proposal was under discussion since 2014, ever since the Supreme Court order was made public through UGC.

UGC has recently opened all its scholarships to the third gender. “Transgender is a distinct identity and unique presence on the socio-cultural map of the country. We can’t ignore the fact that much remains to be done in order to ameliorate the discrimination and deprivation suffered by the Transgender Community in the Indian society,” states the circular, dated February 2, 2015. In August 2014, following the Supreme Court judgment that slated an independent status to the third gender, UGC had released a circular on their decision to include transgender people as a separate category for its scholarship and fellowship schemes.

The SC judgment
The SC, in its judgment dated April 15, 2014, asked the Centre to treat transgenders as socially and economically backward. So they should be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis of the fact that they belonged to the third-gender category. Colleges were also asked to construct separate toilets for the transgender within their campus. The aim was to work towards eradicating the social stigma that this community usually faces.

While the infrastructure is just one part of the circular, it also encourages research projects from academicians who can collaborate ethnographic research on the life and culture of the transgender community. “We will award major research projects which will not only lead to a better understanding of the third gender subculture but also help dispel several myths pertaining to the community embedded in popular discourse,” highlights the circular. It further requests universities to encourage faculty members to come forward and take up such challenging and socially relevant research in the interest of academia as well as egalitarian society.

“Our colleges not only need to look at sensitising students, but also their staff. One needs to ensure that our students do not feel out of place ever. The good thing is that our students are already very aware,” said Indu Shahani, principal of HR College, and a member of the UGC committee that put together rules and regulations for colleges to follow in order to welcome the third gender into campuses.

“More than identity on the admissions forms, we have to also focus on putting in place the right infrastructure, including provision of separate washrooms for the students as well,” she added.

Nile highlighted that the process will be implemented slowly but colleges will have to incorporate the changes from the 2015-16 academic year itself.

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