Jamnagar— In a shocking case of discrimination, a highly qualified transgender individual, Jane Kaushik, was denied a teaching position at the P. V. Modi School in Jamnagar, Gujarat, after accepting an offer letter from the school. Following the incident, legal aid lawyers have served a legal notice to the school for violating the Transgender (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
Jane Kaushik, an activist and a teacher from the transgender community, had received an offer letter via email from the school on 24th July 2023, appointing her as an English Teacher and Social Studies Subject Teacher. Elated by the opportunity, Jane accepted the offer promptly, initiating an employment relationship between her and the school.
Preparations were made to join the school as scheduled on 28th July. However, during her travel from Delhi to Jamnagar, Jane received a distressing call from the school's Human Resource (HR) personnel, Ms. Rupa. In a recorded conversation, Ms. Rupa berated Jane for not disclosing her transgender identity in her resume. Jane promptly clarified that her gender identity was mentioned in her resume and that she had undergone Sex Re-assignment Surgery (SRS), a fact recognized under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
The situation escalated when Jane reached Jamnagar and was informed by the school's management personnel that they would not allow her to teach due to her transgender identity. They expressed concerns about her safety, claiming that the small town would not be suitable for her.
Speaking to The Mooknayak Jane said, " I was shocked when the management personnel from the school informed me that they will not let me teach at the school because I am a transgender person. The person said that the school is situated in a small town, and that it will not be safe for me to teach there. I repeatedly said to the management personnel that I am willing to fulfil my employment obligations and wanted to teach at the school. The management personnel pressured me to leave Jamnagar saying that they could not allow me to teach as I am a transgender person. The personnel also refused to give me any written letter stating that i was being relieved of the position due to my gender."
The legal notice, served by prominent advocate Yashraj Singh Deora, cited Section 9 of the Transgender (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, which expressly prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals in employment matters, including recruitment and promotion. The notice also reminded the school of various court judgments that uphold the equal protection of law for transgender persons, emphasizing their inclusion in various job sectors, including teaching.
The notice demanded the immediate reinstatement of Jane Kaushik to her position as a teacher at the school, as per the terms and conditions of the offer letter. Failure to comply could result in legal proceedings seeking remedies available under the law.
This is not the first incident where Jane had to face gender based discrimination. Last year, in November 2022, Jane was appointed to teach Social Science and English at Uma Devi Children's Academy in Mohammadi Khiri, Lakhimpur Kheri district, Uttar Pradesh. She was selected after successfully clearing a rigorous selection process. However, her promising start was cut short when the school reportedly terminated her services within a week of joining, citing her openness about her gender identity as the reason for her dismissal.
The incident not only triggered a battle for inclusivity and transgender rights in the education sector but also drew attention to the challenges faced by transgender individuals in securing and maintaining employment opportunities.
Jane Kaushik's determination to fight for justice and her vision of creating a safe gender space in the school campus became the driving force behind her demands. In the aftermath of the second incident, Jane and her legal team presented a set of conditions to the school administration, seeking measures to promote understanding and inclusivity for transgender individuals.
Acknowledging the need to address the issue at its core, Uma Devi Children's Academy had to embrace this transformative change by implementing the transgender sensitization course. Through this course, the school aims to educate students, teachers, and staff about the challenges and experiences faced by transgender individuals, fostering empathy and respect towards their rights and identity.
This makes Uma Devi Children's Academy the first school in Uttar Pradesh, and quite possibly among other Indian schools, to undertake such a progressive step towards promoting inclusivity and creating a safe and supportive environment for transgender individuals.
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 realization 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.
The NALSA verdict emphasizes that transgender persons are entitled to equal protection of the law in all fields including employment. Subsequently various High Courts of the country, such as the Hon’ble Madras High Court in The Chairman v. Aradhana W.A. 330/2018 and the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court in Atri Kar v. Union of India 2017 SCC Online Cal 3196 have directed inclusion of transgender persons in employment. Further, in the case of Mx of Bombay Indian Inhabitant vs M/S. Zy & Another AIR 1997 Bom 406, a division bench of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court had directed a private establishment, which had terminated a worker on account of being positive for HIV AIDS, to reinstate the worker and pay back wages computed from the date of appointment to the date of the judgement.
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