The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has advised all States and Union Territories (UTs), barring Jammu and Kashmir, to take appropriate action for the inclusion of “third gender’’ children among socially and educationally backward classes for admission in educational institutions under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to universalise elementary education.
This is in keeping with the Supreme Court order of April 15, 2014, to treat and grant legal recognition to the “third gender”. The Court had directed the Centre and States to take steps to treat transgenders as socially and educationally backward classes and extend reservation for admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.
In a related development, the University Grants Commission on Wednesday issued a circular that transgenders would be included as third gender under the various scholarship and fellowship schemes of the Commission.
Even ahead of the Supreme Court order, the application pro forma for submission of proposals by States and UTs under the National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme and the National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education had been tweaked to provide the transgender option along with male and female from 2013-14 onwards.
The affirmative action provided for transgenders under the SSA is aimed at pushing up their literacy levels, which is around 44 per cent as opposed to the national average of 74 per cent as recorded in the 2011 Census. According to data available, India has 4,90,000 transgenders but activists who have been fighting for their rights maintain that many are still reluctant to declare themselves as the third gender because of the stigma attached.