Building more inclusive, welcoming schools for LGBTQ+ children

Synopsis:  Not just infrastructure and process revamp, we also need reforms in curriculum and teacher education.

Introduction

This article highlights the discrimination faced by the non-binary gender. Recently, during the Shiksha Parv conclave, PM also emphasized the need for inclusive and equitable education.

Recently, Kerala High Court brought attention to medical textbooks that described non-binary gender identities as “offensive perversions” and “mental disorders”. This is despite the fact that Kerala was the first state to adopt a transgender policy six years ago.

What is the status of the transgender community?

As per the 2011 Census, there are 4.8 million transgender persons in India. They have a literacy rate of just 46%, compared to 74% of the general population.

A study by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2017 found that over two-thirds of transgender children drop out of school before completing class 10 in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

In 2020, there were only 19 transgender candidates among the 18 lakh students appearing for the class 10 board exams.

What are the problems faced by the transgender community in the schools?

Discrimination by teachers and students: Children belonging to the transgender community often face problems of bullying, humiliation, sexual harassment. For example, in 2018, a reputed Kolkata school forced 10 of its female students to write a confession letter stating “I am a lesbian”. The consequences of such bullying and intimidation were often severe in terms of mental health as well as academic outcomes.

UNESCO survey 2018 in India: It revealed that 60% of transgender reported experiencing physical harassment in high school; 43% were sexually harassed in elementary school. Only 18% reported incidents of abuse and harassment attributed to school authorities.

What initiatives have been taken by Government to address the problem?

National Education Policy 2020: It recognizes transgender children as educationally disadvantaged. It recommended widening their educational access through a Gender Inclusion Fund.

However, all the initiatives are just limited to conditional cash transfers, distribution of bicycles, provision for sanitation and toilets and countering barriers of access. These steps cannot ensure inclusive classrooms and schools.

Read more: Non Binary genders need more visibility in India’s Census 2021
What can be done to remove the stigma?

Awareness and Acceptability: Focus should be on enhancing awareness and acceptability of the LGBTQ+ community through education. India can learn from Scotland, which became the first country to have an LGBTQ+ inclusive school curriculum in 2021.

Inspirational Stories: Stories of notable persons who identified themselves as LGBTQ+  should be included in the curriculum. Eg Story of Heather who had ‘Two Mommies’

Inclusive language:  Focus should also be on inclusive language like using “partner” instead of “husband/wife” or “them” instead of “him/her”.

Teacher Participation: Teachers should play an important role to model inclusive behaviour and confirm that schools are safe, supporting places for LGBTQ+ students.

Comprehensive Sex Education: Comprehensive sex education must support young lives in exploring sexualities rather than viewing sexual minorities as a disease or disorder.

Source: This post is based on the article “Building more inclusive, welcoming schools for LGBTQ+ children published in Indian Express on 25th September 2021.

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