Delhi University’s transgender students narrate tales of humiliation and discrimination on campus
New Delhi, June 25: Riya Sharma says she has stopped attending weekend classes at Delhi University’s open school where she enrolled as Rahul Sharma for an undergraduate course in 2012, two years before the Supreme Court for the first time recognised a third gender.
The final-year student recalls how she was harassed and humiliated by her batchmates. “Students from SOL (School of Open Learning) have classes every weekend. Students in the class were constantly making fun of me.
“They were teasing me with slurs like ‘sixer’ and cracking jokes on my gender. There was no other transgender person in the class and I felt so humiliated. I didn’t go after that,” said Riya, who appeared for her final exam on June 9.
She is not the only case.
Many transgender students say traumatic experiences at the university have left them disheartened.
“I had to face a tough time while appearing for the examination as the officials had no idea about the ‘other’ category,” Riya told Mail Today.
Following the top court decision, the University Grants Commission (UGC) notified transgender people as the third gender in 2014 to enable them to avail benefits of all scholarship schemes and fellowship programmes in institutes of higher education.
The court pointed out that the country’s nearly three million transgender people are particularly vulnerable to harassment, violence and sexual assault emanating of a deep-seated stigma.
Bangalore University was the first to modify its application form to include the category in 2010. Delhi University’s move to introduce the “third gender” category in postgraduate application forms in 2014 and for undergraduate courses last year was hailed as a progressive step.
But transgender students were apprehensive of the measure because they felt the university was rushing through with an action whose implications they were not prepared to handle.
In 2015, the varsity received 66 applications under the “other” category, but a study conducted by DU’s department of “adult, continuing education and extension” confirmed that no transgender student had taken admission in 2015-2016.
This year, the university has collected just 15 applications in the category.
“There was no admission in the regular courses and around 18 students took admission in SOL. But even those students are not happy with the infrastructure facilities. There is a need to revise the anti-discrimination policy,” said Prof Rajesh, who conducted the study and does a community outreach programme with such people.
K Rahul, another transgender student who took admission at DU in 2012, is still haunted by the names that the fellow students used to call him.
“Whenever, I entered the class, the boys called me ‘Halwa’ and repeatedly threw paper balls at me. Even the teachers laughed,” he said. “I didn’t feel like going to the classes at all. At times, I was not even allowed to sit.”
Rahul was made to wait for an hour outside the examination hall as the invigilator was shocked by his transformed appearance.
“I was then made to file an application informing the university about my change in gender. Officials were asking me questions like why I did this and what was the need to do so. I didn’t know what to say. I felt humiliated,” he said.
Ishana, who enrolled at SOL in 2011 as a male, told Mail Today she faced rampant discrimination at several coaching centres and has not been able to complete the undergraduate course yet.
According to experts, lack of facilities for transgender people at the university is one of the reasons why fewer students from the community are applying for admission.
“There is no equal opportunity cell for the students. There is no clarity over the washrooms for such students. They face discrimination at every level and fearing this, they themselves don’t want to get enrolled. Many aspirants come to us with such issues,” added Rajesh.
The university has received more than 3.6 lakh applications for undergraduate courses this year. The first cut-off list for more than 60,000 seats will come out on June 30.
This is for the first time that the university has gone completely online for admissions to UG courses.