The first state to announce a transgender policy, Kerala, has taken another step to include transgender persons in the mainstream by announcing reservation for students pursuing degrees in the Arts and Sciences.

The government has directed all state and affiliated universities to reserve two seats for transgender students in undergraduate and post graduate courses subject to fulfilment of qualification.

It has also directed these institutions to ensure that transgender students are not discriminated against in any manner. An order issued by the department of higher education stated, “Due to social issues and pressure these students are often forced to discontinue their studies.”

“This trend has to be stopped and we should bring them to the forefront,” a senior official of the education department said.

Members of the community have lauded the government initiative. “This will empower transgender students to conquer many heights. Often they are forced to discontinue their studies midway. It will also help them be open about their identity and rub shoulders with everyone,” said activist Raga Ranjini.

The last seen version of the Transgender (Protection of Rights) Bill, which is expected to come up in the monsoon session of the Parliament also directs all government funded or recognized educational institutions to provide inclusive education to transgender persons.

The Kerala state literacy mission authority (KSLMA) launched a continuing education programme called Samanwaya aimed at transgender persons in January.

In June, the state announced that shelter homes would also be provided in four districts under this programme to prevent drop-outs.

Typically, many transgender persons are refused accommodation by landlords, hostels and lodges on account of their identity.

A survey conducted by KSLMA among 918 transgender persons found that while 10.61% dropped out of school between classes 4 and 7, nearly 40% dropped out between classes 7 and 10. As per the 2011 Census, Kerala has a literacy rate of 93.91%. While the state also boasts of 100% primary education, students who are gender non-conforming tend to drop out of school on account of harassment, bullying and financial exclusion.

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