India Opens First School for Transgender Students

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India opened the first school to allow the marginalized community of transgender adult dropouts to complete their education. The School is called Sahaj International and opened in Kochi this Friday.

Sahaj International

Sahaj International becomes the first of its kind in India to allow transgender dropouts to complete their education. “The most important tool for the underprivileged, discriminated marginalized, oppressed community is education, because education brings light, knowledge, truth and confidence,” transgender activist, writer and actor Kalki Subramaniam said.

In its first year, the school will be accepting 10 students from the ages of 25 to 50 to prepare them for India’s Class 10 and 12 board exams.

“The school aims at making transgenders eligible for taking decent jobs and living a dignified life,” transgender activist and head of the school Vijayraja Mallika told BBC.

Sahaj is managed by six transgender individuals and a woman, who is a member of the Transgender Foundation. “We have admitted six candidates so far, all male-to-female persons, from 14 applicants. Of the 10 seats, we have reserved one for female-to-male and one for the disabled,” Mallika said.

According to India’s Supreme Court, as of 2014 transgender people have been recognized to have equal rights by law. However, the reality is that many remain to be abused, demoralized and shunned by families, forced into poverty. Many lean towards prostitution as a desperate way to make a living for themselves.

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“Most of our biological parents don’t accept us and because of this reason most of us are left on the street and forced to beg and do sex work,” Kalki said.

“This has to change if we have to change the destiny of those people who were abandoned by their families and who had lost opportunity to get educated.”

This stigma has caused the school to be rejected by many cities, until they finally found a place in Kerala, the first state in India to create an anti-discrimination policy against transgender people.

“We approached some 700 people and 51 households, and all of them turned us away. They seemed to think that we were looking for space for prostitution,” Mallika said.

“Kerala has some 25,000 transgenders, and 57% of them were forced to drop out of school due to stigma,” Mallika said. “They all should get a decent accommodation the policy initiatives envisaged.”

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