New Delhi: In November 2022, Jane Kaushik was hired by Uma Devi Children's Academy in Mohammadi Khiri, Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh to teach Social Science and English after a rigorous round of interviews and test sessions. However, within a week of joining, her services were allegedly terminated by the school for being open about her gender identity. The aftermath of this incident sparked a battle for inclusivity and transgender rights in education. Two months after she was fired, the school has now yielded to one of her conditions for creation of a safe gender space in school campus. The school is first in Uttar Pradesh and probably , the first among other Indian schools to introduce a transgender sensitization course.
The Mooknayak spoke to the determined teacher who narrated in details the disappointments she had faced after multiple refusals by private schools in Delhi to recruit her, body shaming before male teachers and the pain of unemployment despite being highly qualified.
" The school hired me on 22nd November last , with the only condition that I wouldn't reveal my salary. Later they asked me to keep my gender identity in wraps. However, we cannot hide our body. Though i behaved and lived like any female teacher in the campus, the students and staff happened to know about my gender and hence, the school forced me to resign within a week. I was assigned no reason or explanation. The Principal humiliated and body shamed me in her room in the presence of two male teachers which was a horrifying experience to recount. I kept begging , implored them not to fire me but they were adamant " Jane told Themooknayak in a choked voice.
Forced to vacate hostel immediately
What hurts Jane more is the inhuman and inconsiderate treatment she was administered by the institution. " They asked me to vacate the hostel immediately in odd hours when there was no train to get back home. I had to take a bus at 8 pm, which was occupied by all male passengers. I cannot explain the extreme fear and insecurity I experienced during the journey until a few women boarded the bus at the Shahjahanpur stop, "Jane said. The teacher kept asking for a written document on the termination of service, but the school didn't comply. Frustrated by the apathy, Jane spoke out against the harassment and abuse she faced from both teachers and students on campus. She filed an online complaint with the Delhi Commission for Women. Later, the National Commission for Women (NCW) intervened and ordered a local probe into the matter. However, the school sent Ms. Kaushik a defamation notice, accusing her of conspiring to tarnish the reputation of the institution."
Cite Inefficiency as reason for dismissal
Jane told The Mooknayak that during the investigation carried out by the district authorities, the school vigorously denied her accusations and asserted that it had dismissed her due to her supposed inadequacy. However, immense pressure from her online petition that garnered wide media coverage and support from trans activists' groups , the school softened it's attitude . Jane had put forwarded few demands including an apology from the school for her improper dismissal, asked her position back in the school and a sensitisation course in the campus to ensure safe space for transgender staff and students .
The school has not only withdrawn the defamation notice but also agreed to comply with Kaushik's requests, including the implementation of a transgender awareness program on campus and the creation of a mechanism for reporting discrimination.
" Although the school has not offered an apology , they have offered to give me back my job but only if I agreed to sit for another exam. I do not want to be made to dance to the school’s tunes after what they put me through but I agreed to help them build the course and set up the complaint mechanism,” Kaushik said. The teacher says , she needs the job badly and that is the only reason why she is considering to appear the test slated for March 20th.
Advocacy for transgenders' reservation
Jane has filed a petition at the Delhi High Court wherein she contends that all advertised vacancies for teaching staff for government schools are confined only to the binary male-and-female genders, thereby excluding transgender persons as a separate category. Discrimination in employment based on gender identity is prohibited under Sections 3(b) and (c) (prohibition against discrimination) and 9 (non-discrimination in employment) of the Transgender Protection Act as well as Rules 10(4), 11 and 12 of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020.
Jane asserts, "The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities have also faced oppression and harassment for years. Our government realized that their rights would only be protected through the means of reservation in jobs and education. Similarly, the non-gender conforming community is also in dire need of protection for their dignity and an equal opportunity for a respectable life."
The Transgender Protection Act, 2019
IN 2014, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgment of the Supreme Court of India gave legal recognition to the third gender. The court’s NALSA guidelines ordered the Union and state governments to ensure the progressive realisation of the civil and socio-economic rights of transgender persons. Five years after these guidelines were laid down, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 (Transgender Protection Act) came into force. However, time and again, it has been highlighted that there is little to no adherence to the law by states.
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