The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala on Monday, through a landmark decision, decided to include transgender as gender option in all application forms in its departments in an effort to further reach out to the marginalised section.
K K Shailaja, the Minister for Social Justice and Health, said in a press release, "An order has been issued to add transgender/transwoman/transman in all application forms of the state government along with the options of female/male. This will help in the upliftment of the transgender community.”
Earlier on December 29 last year, K K Shailaja said the Social Justice Department sanctioned Rs 6 lakh for scholarship to students from the marginalised group in the current financial year. The scholarship scheme is targeted at the trans students, from seventh standard in school to colleges under the government, and state aided and self-financing educational institutions.
“It is part of the drive to bring the marginalised and generally isolated transgender community into the mainstream of society,” the minister said in a statement.
Under the scheme, Rs 1000 per month would be given to each transgender student studying in Class 7 to Class 10 for a period of 10 months. The scholarship would be Rs 1,500 per month for transgender students in higher secondary levels and Rs 2,000 per month for those pursuing diploma, degree, professional and post-graduate courses for a period of 10 months, the minister explained.
As an educationally backward group, there was need for giving more care and consideration to the transgender community members, the minister said detailing the circumstances that prompted the government to launch such a scheme. Beside, a recent survey had found that 58% of transgender students drop out of educational institutions in the state without being able to complete even basic education, the minister added. The study referred to was commissioned by the government in 2015.
As part of its efforts to bring the transgender community to the forefront of society and ensure equal opportunities, the state government had initiated the programme ‘Samanwaya’ in January 2017. Samanwaya was rolled out by the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA) with a focus on the continuation of education of members from the transgender community.
Also, in 2018, the state government had allotted two additional seats for transgender students in universities and government affiliated arts and science colleges across the state as part of its efforts to ensure the inclusion of transgenders in the mainstream society.
The Social Justice Department also decided to extend Rs 30,000 financial aid to trans couples who enter into wedlock legally, including in the current financial year. “A total of Rs three lakh has been sanctioned for the same. Through this, Rs 30,000 each can be given to 10 trans couples,” KK Shailaja said, adding that the scheme was aimed at helping trans people build up a social life through marriages. Applications for the grant can be submitted within six months to one year after the marriage, the minister added.
The Kerala government’s inclusive policies have consistently been showing a way for others on how to include the marginalised sections in policies and schemes. When the current LDF government had come to power in 2016, a special focus was given to the marginalised sections in the society including the trans community. Through various programmes, the government aimed to uplift the conditions of the community focusing on education, healthcare, safe living conditions and even giving employment opportunities.
"In Kerala, which has a transgender policy and finances their gender reassignment surgery, it was decided that the applications can be changed to female/male/transgender/transwoman/ transman. The decision was taken after understanding that the inclusion of this category in the application form would be beneficial to transgender individuals as their identities are clearly stated in the Transgender Personnel Protection of Rights Act, 2019," the minister said.
Incidentally, Kerala is the first state in India which declared a Transgender Policy after the landmark NALSA judgment of the Supreme Court in 2014, which firmly established the right to equality and equal protection for transgender persons. Though the then United Democratic Front government could not do much to uplift the community, the current government has gone further to do more, Shyama S Prabha a transgender person and an activist, had pointed out earlier in a conversation with NewsClick.
Consistent with the 2014 apex court judgment, the state policy allows for the self-identification of a person as Transgender. The policy also recommends the establishment of District-level Transgender Boards that can register and issue identification cards.
In June 2018, the LDF government had formed a cooperative society exclusively for transgenders as parts of its policies to end the injustice against the “third-gender”. The formation of the cooperative society for the transgender people, for the first time in India, aimed to bring the community to the “mainstream” of the society. The scheme intended to provide financial backing to the community in the state.
Earlier, on January 10, 2017, Kerala had set up the country’s first justice board for transgenders that deals with cases of transgender people, provides legal assistance and works to put an end to the discrimination against the community. Apart from these, special shelter homes were launched for the transgender persons who had been abandoned by their families. A special health scheme was also introduced for the trans people in the state.
(With Inputs from PTI)