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Why transgender quota isn’t working

Bangalore University created a quota for the transgender community in its post-graduate courses in 2010, but 13 years down the line, there are no takers for the 60-odd reserved seats. The Karnataka government has taken several affirmative actions to integrate the transgender community into the mainstream, reservations in jobs and education being among them. According to activists, several factors contribute to the lack of enthusiasm from the community. The main reason is that most individuals do not complete their undergraduate courses as they drop out at the high school level. Dropout levels are high because students grapple with poor finances, get inadequate family support, and face discrimination. A study paper of the National Human Rights Commission released in 2017 had indicated that 82% of the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) faced bullying over sexual orientation in schools, while 32% did not go to school as they felt unsafe.

Based on a High Court order, the Karnataka government has introduced a 1% quota in jobs for the transgender community. However, most members do not fit the eligibility criteria as they lack proper education. For instance, in June 2022, the government called for applications for the post of 15,000 teachers, reserving 150 of them for the transgender community. Of the 70,000 applications received, only two were from transgender persons. The then school education minister B C Nagesh had surmised that a majority in the community either did not possess BEd degrees or were afraid of social stigma.

The Karnataka State Policy on transgender persons was published in 2017 with a view to recognising the Constitutional rights of the community and addressing their health, education, housing and employment concerns. However, most of the provisions remain only on paper, and activists have for long demanded that the nodal agency for implementation should be the social welfare department, and not the women and child welfare department as at present. While it is laudable that the government is doing its best to provide employment to transgender persons, all efforts come to naught unless they are first equipped with proper education and training. The public, particularly students, should be sensitised so that members of the LGBTQ community do not face ridicule, discrimination and social ostracism. Only better job opportunities and financial stability will enable the community to live in dignity, but the government should get the basics right by empowering them with quality education.

(Published 17 December 2023, 20:39 IST)

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