The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the State government on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking separate hostels and accommodation for transgender students in higher educational institutions in the State [Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju v. State Government of Karnataka and Ors].
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice SR Krishna Kumar sought the response of the State authorities in the PIL filed by Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, a transwoman, who had undergone gender affirming medical and surgical transition and treatment.
The petition stated that she is an active voice for transgender rights in the country and has taken up many issues for the protection of rights of the transgender and intersex community.
The petition pointed out that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 prohibits discrimination in educational establishments and institutions and unfair treatment with regard to the right to reside, purchase, rent or otherwise occupy any property.
Further, Rule 10 of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 states that the appropriate government should create institutional infrastructure such as temporary shelters, short stay homes and accommodation, choice of male, female, or separate wards, etc.
However, there are no specific rules framed for housing and hostel facilities for transgender students, it was submitted.
Although the legislation addresses inclusive education, it does not provide for any measures relating to inclusive housing and hostel accommodation in higher education, the plea alleged.
One of the main reasons why transgender students often are forced to drop out of higher education is because of harassment faced by them in hostels, as they are accommodated not based on their gender identity, but on the sex assigned to them at birth, and are hence placed in opposite gender hostels.
The plea also noted that young trans persons are often thrown out of their homes as they are not accepted due to their gender identity, and the violence and discrimination they face has a serious impact on their education.
Further, the petitioner herself was placed in the boys hostel during her MBBS course, where she was subjected to ragging, abuse and humiliation, which caused mental trauma to her. Despite her gender reassignment surgery, she was not shifted to the girls hostel, and was forced to reside separately with financial help from her parents.
If she did not have that financial support, she would have had no option but to either drop out of the MBBS course or face abuse in the boys hostel, it was claimed.
The Karnataka State Policy for Transgender Persons Policy does not address housing and hostel accommodation for transgender students, who face numerous hardships, the plea stated.
The PIL referred to the judgement of the Supreme Court in NALSA v Union of India, affirming the right to gender identity through self determination. It also argued that privacy is an essential aspect of liberty, and that the right to determine one’s gender identity is a part of one’s autonomy and right to life under the Constitution.
The refusal to accommodate transgender students is also a violation of their right to equality, as cisgender students are accommodated as per their gender identity, it was contended.
Transgender students are thus denied the right solely due to their gender identity and the refusal of others to acknowledge their identity. As private individuals are also enjoined from discriminating on the basis of sex, all educational institutions must extend the benefit of accommodation to transgender students, the petitioner prayed.
Thus, all higher education institutions in the State should be directed to include in their admission and hostel forms the option for including gender identity as ‘transgender’, in addition to male and female.
Further, transgender students in higher education should be accommodated according to their self determined gender identity and separate hostel facilities for transgender students should be made in higher education institutes.
The petitioner also sought directions to educational institutions to frame guidelines that when a student wants to change their gender identity during the course, it may be done through a self declaration affidavit and that proof of surgery should not be required.