The US lags behind other countries on LGBTQ rights
The Indian government withdrew a manual to train and educate school and college teachers about transgender or gender nonconforming students after conservative lawmakers criticized it.
the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), an autonomous organization of the Indian government tasked with assisting and advising central and state governments on policies and programs to improve the quality of school education, last month released a training manual for teachers on inclusion of trans students in school. After its publication, the manual sparked controversy and met resistance from right-wing activists. Soon, NCERT withdrew the manual from its website, sparking resentment within the Indian trans and LGBTQ community.
“When the news came out that NCERT was taking this step to make schools a safe place for the LGBTQ community in India, I felt so amazing and proud and happy,” said Yahnvi Kallani, a 14-year-old student. from Agra in Uttar Pradesh.
“It was the day after the news that they withdrew it because a minister questioned them, and they had to dismantle everything, which disappointed and annoyed me,” Kallani added.
In 2014, the Indian Supreme Court recognized trans people as the third kind and declared that every human being has the right to choose their sex.
Based on the Supreme Court ruling, the Indian government passed a law in 2019 called the Transgender People Act.. NCERT acted on this legislation and decided to produce an instruction manual titled “Inclusion of Transgender Children in School Education: Concerns and a Roadmap”, which aimed to educate and sensitize teachers and students to the different genres.
The manual highlights strategies for making schools sensitive and inclusive to trans and gender non-compliant students. It also includes the provision of gender neutral toilets and uniforms, and sensitization of non-teaching staff in schools has also been included. The handbook advocated abandoning the practice of segregating students into various gender-based school activities. The manual included inviting trans people to speak on the school campus.
Shortly after the manual’s publication, Vinay Joshi, a member of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu nationalist group), lodged a complaint against the NCERT with the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR ).
Joshi claimed that the textbook is a “criminal conspiracy to traumatize students in the name of gender awareness” and that the NCPCR should take appropriate action against those responsible for it. NCERT removed the manual from its website without delay.
“The manual was not for children, but for teachers,” said Dr L. Ramakrishnan, public health professional and vice-president of SAATHII.
Ramakrishnan was one of the members who helped create the NCERT manual.
“We don’t know if the manual is completely scratched or if it will come out with some revisions,” Ramakrishnan added.
After multiple requests for comment from NCERT Director Dr Sridhar Srivastava, he remained silent. It should be noted that after the complaint was filed with NCERT on the issue of the manual, two NCERT employees who were also involved in the design of the manual were transferred to other departments.
“We’re not happy with this, and we’re still introspecting various ways we can still make it work,” said Mr. Rishu, a representative of. Harmless hugs, a platform that provides a safe space for the LGBTQ community in India.
School children across the country have given their reactions to the Washington Blade.
Priya Verma, 16, from India’s capital New Delhi, said she was not happy with NCERT’s decision.
“This is a big problem, people and classmates need to know about it,” said Verma, a grade 10 student.
“When NCERT developed this manual, many transgender students were hoping for change. Bringing out the manual shows the selfishness of the organization, ”she added.
Yahnvi Kallani, a 14-year-old student from Agra, said that while reading the textbook, she was happy the school had a gender-neutral uniform. But since the manual is gone, she feels uncomfortable as she identifies as non-binary.
Muskan Vishwakarma, a freshman from Gujarat state, expressed disappointment at the NCERT decision.
She said that people in India are not aware of the trans community. Vishwakarma said people think it is a disease when it is not. To solve this problem, she said, the government needs to educate people, and this can be done through schools.
Ever since NCERT released the manual, she said the problem would remain intact.
“Whatever happened, it was not good,” Vishwakarma said. “In classrooms, kids don’t understand these things and end up bullying kids who look or act different from them.”
Recently, 43 LGBTQ groups from different institutes in India and 700 people from all over the country signed a letter to NCERT and demanded to bring the manual back to the NCERT website as soon as possible. The letter was also addressed to the President of the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Women and Development of child for retrospection and necessary actions, and to the National Council for Transgender People (NCTP).
While many have shown their disappointment, some have also expressed hope with NCERT.
Manvendra Singh Gohil, an Indian prince who is the world’s first openly gay prince, spoke to the Blade about it.
“The NCERT manual could be removed, but I’m sure in the days to come it will be considered and inclusion will be there,” Gohil said.
“We must educate political parties and leaders, we must also sensitize parties, whether left or right,” he added.
Tinesh Chopad, based in Mumbai, Advocacy Manager at the Humsafar trust, said NCERT is a larger body and has a much broader reach in the country. If the manual can be kept again, that would be a good step.
“Most trans people also face stigma and bullying at the school level,” Chopad said. “It was a step towards avoiding the bullying and discrimination that transgender people face on a daily basis. “
Mohit Kumar (Ankush) is a freelance journalist who has covered various stories including the 2020 US election and women’s rights issues. He has also covered NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and enjoys helping people. Mohit is on Twitter at @MohitKopinion and reachable at [email protected].