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IGNOU’s Move to Provide Free Education for Transpeople is Not All Good News

Photo by Daniel LofredoRota via Flickr CC 2.0


We were all cheers when Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in New Delhi introduced a third gender category in its enrollment structure. Mind you, this was in 2012, two years before the Supreme Court officially granted transgenders the third gender status. So yesterday, when IGNOU announced it’s decision to waiver all fees for transgender candidates, my arms were half-raised in hurrah.

That is, until the second line of the announcement specified that transgender persons will have to produce a government-recognised identity document for approval. In an official announcement at the university headquarters in Delhi, the Vice Chancellor Professor Ravindra Kumar, explained, “There is a possibility that after hearing of the fee waiver, some people will declare themselves transgender. What mechanism will we have to check this? That’s why we’re asking for some proof to ascertain their gender.”

We’re fairly divided on this. The possibility of misuse cannot be discounted. At the same time, the need to produce documentation raises concerns of discrimination. While the move to provide free education heralds the representation of transgender rights in the umbrella sphere of education reforms, the discrimination for producing IDs, leaves a reluctantly sour taste in my mouth.

Sure, it has been easier for transpeople to register for voting cards, Aadhaar Cards, railway IDs and other documents since 2014. But wouldn’t it be more inclusive to ask all candidates, irrespective of gender, to produce identification?

Perhaps, IGNOU could take a leaf out of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University’s book. MSU not only announced free education for transgenders in April this year, but to also build separate toilets for TG students. But being a campus university, all students were required to produce IDs for the admission process.

Waiving tuition fees for transpeople is a step in the direction I’d like to see education reforms going. Only, I’d cringe a little less if such moves were accompanied by uniformity in the admission process.