The NCERT has removed a teachers’ manual on integration of gender non-conforming and transgender children at schools from its website.
While the manual, prepared by a panel of experts following consultations that lasted over a year, was released last month, the NCPCR sent a complaint against it to the NCERT on November 2, seeking “comments and appropriate action in rectifying anomalies in the document” within a week.
The NCERT is yet to respond to the NCPCR letter. However, an expert who worked on the manual has said that the points flagged by the NCPCR reflect “misinterpretation” of their recommendations.
The manual in question has, among several recommendations, proposed the earmarking of gender-neutral toilets for transgender children and has suggested that teachers talk to students about puberty blockers (hormones) that delay certain development of the body. It has also suggested gender-neutral uniforms, and the freedom to children to wear what they are comfortable in.
In its letter, the NCPCR conveyed to the NCERT that the complainant has opposed the proposals and directed the NCERT to verify the background of the members of the panel.
While there was no official response from NCERT, sources said NCERT had conveyed to the Ministry of Education that the document was still under review when it was inadvertently uploaded on the website.
On Friday, L Ramakrishnan, a key member of the panel that prepared the manual, said the points flagged by the NCPCR reflect “misinterpretation” of their recommendations and observations. Ramakrishnan, who is also the vice-president of the NGO Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII), said “he stands by the report”.
NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said he could not immediately recall the name of the complainant. However, an organisation called Legal Rights Observatory, which claims to do “legal activism in national interest”, said on Twitter that the complaint was made “on behalf of a group of activists/pro bono lawyers” working with it.
The Legal Rights Observatory alleged the manual has been “drafted by intellectually bankrupt leftist elements capable of traumatizing students”. It also tagged Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in a tweet, saying “please take immediate action against officials appointing CAA protestors in drafting this anti national manual”.
In response, Ramakrishnan said, “The complainants have misinterpreted the proposals. The manual merely stresses the need for gender-responsive infrastructure in schools, something that has been pointed out by the Union government on multiple occasions and in multiple policy documents. Research has shown that a lot of bullying and violence against gender non-conforming children happen in toilets and that is why toilets for gender non-conforming and transgender children may be earmarked and designated ‘gender neutral’ toilets.”
He added, “Endocrinologists have gone on record to affirm that puberty blockers can help alleviate the gender dysphoria and mental health of transgender children. And these cannot be obtained without psychological evaluation or parental consent. The manual only nudges teachers to talk about these options in the case of need.”
When contacted, Kanoongo said, “The NCERT has not responded yet. But it is good if they have removed the manual from the website. The recommendations cannot go beyond what the law permits. Such toilets may lead to cases of sexual assault. Do they have any idea about the number of POCSO cases? Also, how can teachers prescribe pills? Did the committee have qualified medical experts to make any such suggestion?”