Maharashtra Policy Guidelines for Education Sector to Become More Trans-Friendly, but Community Still Unsure of Steps

In Maharashtra, colleges now must create transgender cells for inclusivity, with universities appointing coordinators for guidance. Hostel sections must be reserved for transgender students. Non-compliance carries consequences like admission denial based on gender.
Trans community of Maharashtra protesting against the discriminative police force application process in 2023
Trans community of Maharashtra protesting against the discriminative police force application process in 2023Nikita Mukhydal/DW

New Delhi: Maharashtra government has recently come up with a list of recommendations to build a more trans inclusive environment in the education sector. But owing to the alleged transphobic history of the current government and the lack of implementation of the previous steps, students and activists are still unsure of the motive.

In response to the state government’s recent approval of a comprehensive policy for the transgender community, the higher and technical education department in the state has taken proactive steps to ensure its implementation within the realm of higher education.

As part of these measures, all colleges across the state are now mandated to establish dedicated transgender cells aimed at fostering an inclusive and supportive academic atmosphere.

According to the measures, each university is required to appoint a coordinator to oversee the operations of the transgender cell within their respective institution. This coordinator will be tasked with various responsibilities, including, but not limited to, providing counseling services, offering academic guidance tailored to the unique needs of transgender students and facilitating their integration into campus life.

Furthermore, institutions with hostel facilities are directed to allocate a specific section to accommodate transgender students, thereby ensuring their safety and comfort within residential settings.

To enforce compliance with these directives, the higher and technical education department has issued clear guidelines outlining the repercussions of non-adherence. It is emphasized that any instance of discrimination against transgender individuals during the admission process or within the academic environment will not be tolerated.

Institutions found to be in violation of these guidelines may face disciplinary action, underscoring the government’s commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of all students, irrespective of gender identity.

The establishment of transgender cells within colleges serves a dual purpose. Firstly, they function as watchdogs, actively monitoring and addressing instances of discrimination or prejudice against transgender students on campus.

Secondly, at the university level, the designated coordinators will spearhead initiatives aimed at raising awareness, promoting sensitivity and fostering a culture of inclusivity within the academic community. These efforts are crucial in creating a supportive and affirming environment where transgender students can thrive academically and personally.

According to a report by The Indian Express, the government resolution states, “The cells at college levels will work toward eradicating prejudice or discrimination against transgender students. It has to create awareness against any mental or sexual harassment of transgender students.”

The Mooknayak talked to a final year student from the state who belongs to the transgender community about their reaction to the news.

The student who wishes to remain anonymous sounded appreciative of the resolutions but also asserted that the implementation of such will play an important role. 

“Some months back, the government had also announced fee waivers to the trans students, but it has still not been implemented yet, making me question the thought process behind it,” said the student.

The student is referring to an announcement that was released back in December of last year, where Maharashtra’s higher and technical education department announced a fee-waiver initiative for transgender individuals pursuing higher education.

This initiative mandated the respective universities to cover the associated costs. During this announcement, it was also promised that a more thorough set of guidelines was being developed to guarantee inclusive campuses, enabling transgender individuals to enjoy equal opportunities for higher education access.

“There are trans students who are still not being able to provide for the fees, because of which many are not going for higher education and are being involved in menial activities,” added the trans student.

‘Hijda’ Still an Abuse

In July 2023, Maharashtra BJP MLA Nitesh Rane referred to former CM Uddhav Thackeray as the “chief of hijdas”. He criticized the Shiv Sena chief, stating that he had depicted his father, Balasaheb, as an old man during his final days and compared him to animals. He further remarked that Uddhav is a disgrace to men.

After this incident, according to the student, multiple protests had taken place against the dehumanization of an entire community but no case was lodged.

According to them, this further points to the politicians using marginalised communities as vote bank but not putting in the work to treat the community as human beings.

Horizontal Reservation a Far-Fetched Dream

The Maharashtra government has a pattern of promising marginalised communities’ visibility and then going to the court against the same. In June 2023, the government told the Bombay High Court that implementing separate reservations for transgender individuals in both education and government employment would present obstacles.

Advocate General Birendra Saraf informed a division bench of Acting Chief Justice Nitin Jamdar and Justice Sandeep Marne that introducing further reservations for transgender individuals would contravene the Supreme Court’s mandated limit of 50 percent on total quota allocations.

The call for Horizontal Reservation gained momentum after the NALSA judgement of 2014, which spoke about reservations for the trans community. Its purpose is to promote the integration of socially and economically marginalized groups by guaranteeing them a predetermined percentage of opportunities in employment, education and political representation.

In an earlier conversation with The Mooknayak, Nikita Mukhidyal, a transgender activist hailing from the state, had said alleged during their court proceedings last year, the government’s stance was against granting a one percent reservation to the transgender community due to concerns about exceeding the 50 percent reservation cap.

She said she believes the Maharashtra government is deliberately impeding the transgender community from integrating into the mainstream and asserting their rights.

The transgender community in Maharashtra organized protest demonstrations at Mumbai's Azad Maidan on three occasions. Additionally, during the Winter Session of the Maharashtra Assembly, they reiterated their protests to ensure that our demands received attention. Furthermore, hunger strikes were also conducted as part of the efforts to advocate for the cause but in vain.

Till now, Karnataka is the only state in the nation to have implemented 1% horizontal reservation for the community.

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