Advertisement

'Bring back manual on inclusion of transgender children in schools': 43 LGBTQIA+ groups, over 700 individuals endorse open letter to NCERT

02:03 PM Nov 26, 2021 | Gaurav Kadam

43 LGBTQIA+ groups, including those from IIT Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur and Kharagpur, as well as over 700 individuals have endorsed an open letter to NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training), demanding that the teacher training manual on the inclusion of transgender students in schools be retrieved and made available on their website. The open letter has also been also addressed to Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Justice, Ministry of Women and Child Development and the National Council for Transgender Persons, urging them to intervene in this matter.

What is this teacher training manual?

Advertisement
Advertisement

The manual titled "Inclusion of Transgender Children in School Education" was designed for "sensitization of teachers and educators regarding aspects of gender diversity keeping gender-nonconforming and transgender children at centre stage". It sought to integrate these children in the school system and provide them an appropriate learning environment.

Advertisement

The manual, accessed by The Free Press Journal, explained various gender terms such as cisgender, agender, gender queer, etc. It also went on to explain different sexual orientations and the regional identities of the transgender communities in the Indian sub-continent.

The manual further offered suggestions to teachers and schools to create a gender-neutral teaching environment. It recommended the provision of gender-neutral toilets and uniforms. It also suggested discontinuing practices that segregate children for various school activities based on their gender. "Separate rows for boys and girls during assembly, school functions, seating arrangements in classrooms; gender-wise separate uniforms, working groups for assignments, excursions, etc., should be discontinued. Mixed groups should be allowed, gender-neutral uniforms can be introduced, etc," said the manual.

All teaching and non-teaching staff should be sensitized “on concerns of transgender students; how to end their discrimination, isolation and harassment; transgender sensitive behavior, etc. and to curb the trans-phobic behaviour among the school community", it added.

It also recommended to train teachers, educational planners and administrators "on creating transgender-friendly school culture, taking quick and appropriate decisions in favour of transgender children and to address their grievances, if any".

Why did the NCERT remove the manual from its website?

On November 2, the NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) wrote to NCERT saying it had received complaints against the contents of the teaching manual. In the letter, NCPCR asked NCERT to “take appropriate action to rectify the anomalies in the document” within a week.

“The text of the manual suggests gender-neutral infrastructure for children that does not commensurate with their gender realities and basic needs. Also, the idea of creating and removing binaries shall deny them equal rights of children of diverse biological needs. Second, this approach will expose children to unnecessary psychological trauma due to contradictory environments at home and in school,” NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said in the letter to NCERT.

Following this, the NCERT removed the training manual from its official website. Also, it transferred two of the three senior faculty members of its Department of Gender Studies who helped develop the manual.

Meanwhile, L Ramakrishnan, who is a key member of the panel that prepared the training manual, told Indian Express that the points flagged by the NCPCR reflect “misinterpretation” of their proposal. "The manual merely stresses the need for gender-responsive infrastructure in schools, something that has been pointed out by the Union government on multiple occasions and in multiple policy documents," he said.

43 LGBTQIA+ groups, over 700 individuals endorse open letter

The open letter drafted by Vaivab Das, who is pursuing Ph.D. in the area of Gender Studies at IIT Delhi, demands that NCPCR redacts its notice to NCERT and "tenders a public apology for actively participating in transmisia (transphobia)".

The open letter, which has been endorsed by 43 LGBTQIA+ groups and over 700 individuals, also demands the NCERT to retrieve the teacher’s training manual and to make it available on its website.

Speaking to The Free Press Journal, Das said he was very disappointed after the NCERT removed the manual. He said: "The manual is a charter of awareness that ensures that learning doesn’t become a choice between one’s bodily integrity and one’s aspirations. It is a positive step towards a more empathetic and inclusive education system." He said the manual was created to train teachers as they are the primary interface between the students and education.

When asked about the reason behind drafting the open letter, Das said the idea came after the National Council for Transgender Persons didn't take up the issue. "None of the rights bodies took cognizance. This was a very regressive attitude of the statutory bodies," he added.

Das further claimed that nothing mentioned in the manual is beyond the law and said he is determined to take up the fight to the judiciary.

(To view our epaper please Read Now. For all the latest News, Mumbai, Entertainment, Cricket, Business and Featured News updates, visit Free Press Journal. Also, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and do like our Facebook page for continuous updates on the go)

Advertisement