PRIDE: LGBTQIA+ and the Indian School Education System
In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India declared Section 377 of the Indian Constitution as unconstitutional, as it infringed on the fundamental rights of autonomy, intimacy, and identity of citizens. Do these constitutional rights of children of the LGBTQIA+ community in India thrive in educational spaces too? At Turn the Bus, we wish to continue this dialogue, even after the Pride month.
The stakeholders in the Indian education system are conservative, a reflection of the Indian society at large. When educational spaces like schools are supposed to be places for childrens’ personal and intellectual growth, there is an urgent need to inspect whether these spaces cater to a minority- the LGBTQIA+ community.
Unsuspectingly, an in-depth study by UNESCO in Tamil Nadu, India brought out findings of bullying and discrimination faced by students of the LGBTQIA+ community. In its sample of almost 400 sexual and gender minority youth, 84% reported to have been bullied, mostly by peers. A sad shocker was that 20% of the participants reported being harassed by a male teacher. The forms of bullying reported were physical bullying, verbal bullying and social bullying. Various news articles also cover prevalent incidents of how LGBTQIA+ students are made to feel uncomfortable and unaccepted in school spaces, where even authorities like teachers and school principals often turn a blind eye to incidents of bullying at schools.
While we hope and work towards a gradual behavioural change in society to stop discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA+ community, there is also equally an immediate need for strict adoption of policies that implement the same. In other developing countries, like the Philippines, there are laws that make it compulsory for school authorities to seriously address school bullying and discrimination, including those based on one’s gender identity and sexual orientation. In India, very recently, the High Court of Madras officially suggested measures that come as rays of hope shone on the issue, by an Indian judiciary body. The suggested measures include:
- At schools, parents- teachers meetings should include sensitizing and educating parents on the issues of the LGBTQIA+ community and gender nonconforming students so as to ensure supportive families for children.
- Policies and resources should support students belonging to LGBTQIA+ community in all spheres of their educational life. For this, educational spaces should:
- Include gender-neutral restrooms,
- Change the name of gender on academic records for persons and include ‘transgender’,
- Appoint of counsellors who are LGBTQIA+ inclusive, for the staff and students.
- Appropriate government bodies shall take effective steps to implement measures in relation to transgender persons as stipulated by Chapter VI of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 and Rule 10 of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020.
There is a lot that local, state and national governments can do to protect the rights of children of the LGBTQIA+ community and meanwhile, the role of civil society organisations like us is to advocate till equality across all sections of society becomes a reality!