NCERT transgender inclusion manual: The National Council of Education and Research (NCERT) has taken down the manual on inclusion of the transgender and gender non-conforming children at schools from its website. The move came after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) sent a complaint that it received from a group called Legal Rights Observatory.
The complaint was sent by NCPCR to NCERT on November 2 seeking “comments and appropriate action in rectifying anomalies in the document” from the organisation within a week. Although the council has not reverted back on the complaint, news reports claim that the manual was taken down from the website.
An expert who worked on the manual said that the points made by NCPCR hinted at misinterpretation of what was originally recommended.
The manual, prepared by a panel of experts over the last year, was released last month. This manual marked the need for gender-neutral toilets for transgender children. It also stated that teachers need to talk to the students about puberty blockers. Among other suggestions, the new manual also focused on the need for gender-neutral uniforms and gave children the freedom of what they prefer to wear.
Traditionally, schools assign uniforms following the binary gender norms. Girls are supposed to wear skirts while boys are to wear either half-pants or full pants.
In the letter by NCPCR, they mentioned that the complainant had objected to the proposals and directed NCERT to verify the experts, the members of the panel, background.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the NCERT had conveyed to the Ministry of Education that the manual was uploaded on the website while still being under review. L Ramakrishnan, the vice-president of the Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection In India (SAATHII) which is an NGO and also a key member of the panel said that the points by the panel on the manual were misinterpreted and “he stands by the report”.
Talking about the complaint, the NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said that the complaint came from an organisation called Legal Rights Observatory who claim themselves to be in “legal activism in national interest” on Twitter. The objection was made on behalf of activists and pro bono lawyers of the mentioned group.
The “legal activism in national interest” group alleged that the manual was drafted by “intellectually bankrupt leftist elements capable of traumatising students.” They had tagged Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in a tweet that stated, “Please take immediate action against officials appointing CAA protestors in drafting this anti-national manual.”
According to a report by The Hindu, the backlash and a complaint was filled by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing organisation’s former pracharak Vinay Joshi who alleged that the manual was a “criminal conspiracy to psychologically traumatise school going students under the name of gender sensitisation.”
Ramakrishnan said that the manual stresses the need for gender-responsive infrastructure in schools and research shows many cases of bullying and violence against gender non-conforming students in schools. Also, on puberty blockers, he said that endocrinologists have said on the record that they help alleviate the “gender dysphoria and mental health of transgender children.”
In an interview, Kanoongo said that it is good that NCERT has removed the manual from the website. “The recommendations cannot go beyond what the law permits. Such toilets may lead to sexual assault,” he said while questioning if the panel knew the number of POCSO cases and how can teachers ‘prescribe’ pills and if the committee has any medical expert on board.
As per the 2017 survey of 700 schoolchildren in the top 10 Delhi schools by the Society of Peoples’ Awareness, Care and Empowerment, 30 percent of trans students face gender-based bullying, 39 percent face name-calling while 24 percent face physical violence like pushing and shoving.