Recently, the draft manual titled “Integrating Transgender Concerns in Schooling Processes” has been released. The document aims to initiate a dialogue among the participants and bring to fore their experiences with transgenders and understanding of transgender concerns.

It is prepared by a new committee convened by the National Council of Educational Research and Training’s (NCERT) Department of Gender Studies head (Jyotsna Tiwari).

 

Background

  • It came two years after NCERT removed a document (“Inclusion of Transgender Children in School Education: Concerns and Roadmap”) on inclusion of transgender children in schools.
  • The old document was removed following an objection by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to suggestions on gender-neutral toilets and puberty blockers.
  • The NCERT has released a fresh manual, which avoids the usage of not just those terms but also references to caste system and patriarchy that were highlighted in the previous one.

 

Key highlights of the new draft

  • Diverse gender expressions have a long history of acceptance in India — It was documented in various art forms and multiple texts of ancient period, including epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. However, it avoids any discussion of the role of the caste system or patriarchy in maintaining stigmas.
  • Recognise people with diverse sexualities — It includes LGBTQIA+ communities and the present module is specifically focusing upon transgender persons by birth.
  • Recommends the introduction of gender-neutral uniforms — From Grade VI onward, the schools can introduce gender neutral uniforms which are comfortable, climate appropriate, fit and do not conform to a particular gender.
  • Toilets exclusively for transgender students — In case there is a toilet for Children with Special Needs (CWSN) that can also be shared by transgender students.

 

Concerns about the new draft

  • The two manuals (old and new), prepared by two different committees, are starkly different in nature despite dealing with the same subject.
    • For instance, the previous manual, categorically stated that —
      • There is evidence of diverse genders and gender expression being socially accepted in the subcontinent since the Vedic age.
      • The dominant social system of caste patriarchy in India had relegated transgender persons to occupations that are stigmatised.
  • Textbooks should provide all students with a critical lens to investigate a variety of issues that continue to confront us, such as caste, class, gender and power relations, patriarchy, diverse sexual identities and marginalisation, etc.
  • Does not deal with all categories of gender non-conforming children — No information for teachers on dealing with children who may not be transgender but show signs of “Gender Dysphoria”. Gender Dysphoria indicates psychological distress resulting from a conflict between a person’s assigned gender at birth and the gender with which they identify or the “agender” category (neither man nor woman).