Activist says the move is a welcome but Tamil Nadu has a lot to do to catch up with Kerala.

TN govt announces free education for transgender persons in one university Representational Image/PTI
news Education Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 17:09

In a welcome move, the Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister KP Anbazhagan announced on Thursday that all transgender students will get free education in the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli.

The Minister also announced that "meritorious students"  will also get a stipend of Rs 3000 per month under this scheme. However, details are awaited about how a student will be adjudged meritorious or not.

Speaking to TNM, senior transgender rights activist Kalki Subramaniam welcomed the move, “It’s a great move. Education can transform anyone's life and especially for underprivileged transgenders in the country.”

The move to provide education to transgender persons in one university is definitely a step forward; however, Tamil Nadu, which was the first state in the country to provide a ‘transgender’ option in ration cards, has fallen back on the progress it made several years ago.

Kalki also spoke in favour of a more holistic approach, “We have been waiting for a quota from the central government as well as the state government. We need reservations in college education for transgender people for at least the next ten years. But for everything we want, we have to fight, that is the situation now in Tamil Nadu or in any part of India,” Kalki told TNM.

She added, “Transgender persons want to get into civil services and want to contribute towards country but there has been very stereotyped ideas about us even within political circles.”

Under the DMK rule in 2008, the Tamil Nadu government had brought in a transgender welfare board. However, once AIADMK came into power, they decided to put the board to sleep.

 The Hindu in an article in 2015 had reported that the last meeting of the board was held in 2013. Additionally, the board also failed to appoint any “non-official” members belonging to the transgender community and non-government bodies to the board after the first three years.

 As LGBTQI+ activist Moulee wrote in TNM earlier: “The Transgender Welfare board was started in April 2008 after the intervention of DMK MP Kanimozhi.In 2009, as the LGBTQ community was planning its first Pride Parade in Chennai, the police was reluctant to grant permission. The permission was finally granted - but only after the police was told that the parade was being held to thank Ms Kanimozhi for helping start the Transgender welfare board in the state. There was even a banner in the Pride Parade thanking Ms Kanimozhi - which was rolled away halfway through the march.”

 But while Tamil Nadu has lost sight of its goals over politics, neighbouring Kerala has taken several strides in the right direction in recent years.

 In November 2015, Kerala became the first state in India to introduce a comprehensive transgender policy.  The policy intended to eradicate social stigma and discrimination faced by transgender persons.

 The state has then focussed on this goal in different ways, from holding a sports meet for transgender persons to providing them employment under different schemes, including the Kochi metro.

Earlier this month, Kerala also introduced a more holistic education scheme for transgender persons in the state. The Kerala government announced that transgender school dropouts will be welcomed to return to their school.

Read: Kerala scores again with project to bring transgender dropouts back to school

Kalki added that, “Tamil Nadu was a pioneer when it comes to transgender rights but now Kerala has replaced Tamil Nadu in this regard. In the past ten years, only 5% of what should have been done has been done.”