November 16, 2021
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Good morning. Turns out, we’ve got a miniature moon but also not really. What? The 165 ft long Kamo’oalewa, meaning “wobbling celestial object”, was first thought to be just another asteroid that chose to tag along for the ride. But last Thursday, a team of scientists in Communications Earth & Environment found that it is a small chunk of lunar matter from our very own moon. While this quasi-celestial might not have been built differently, it’s still definitely way too small and way too loyal to the sun to become our mini-moon. Typical.
📰 FEATURE STORY
NCERT Inclusivity Manual – Propaganda Or Necessary?
School, in general, can be a stressful time. You’re juggling a lot over the course of many years. For some students, particularly transgender and gender non-conforming, going to school can be an unpleasant experience. It could even be detrimental to their mental and physical health. What if administrators had the necessary resources at their disposal to make schooling for these students inclusive?
That’s just what the NCERT did and then quickly retreated. They uploaded a training manual titled “Inclusion of Transgender Children in School Education: Concerns and Roadmap.” The manual contained strategies on how to make schooling and the school premises more inclusive. As the backlash followed, it was taken down. So what gives?
In general, transgender issues and rights in India haven’t gained as much mainstream acceptance as many would like. Certainly, for transgender adults, some basic rights are still denied. Most recently, in 2019, India passed The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill. While many hoped this would be a landmark moment, it wasn’t the case. Activists said the law ignored many of their concerns and could even put trans lives at risk.
What’s the transgender population in India? According to the 2011 census, it’s more than 4.8 lakh. In education, the literacy rate among transgender students is 57.06%. In the board exams results for 2020, the pass percentage of transgender students of Class 10 declined by 15.7% and for class 12 by 16.6%.
When it comes to school, life for a trans or gender non-conforming student can be hell. In the US, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine stated trans students were four times more likely to suffer from at least one mental health issue. For India, a 2019 International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) report highlighted the prevalence of bullying of trans students in schools. Given the lack of resources on this subject matter, teachers sometimes go along with the bullying.
The manual would’ve been a resource for teachers, educators, and administrators. It had explanations on concepts like gender identity, gender incongruence, gender expression, and in general, LGBTQ+ terms and topics. For example, it included definitions and explanations of terms people use to identify themselves, like gender-fluid, gender non-conforming, etc.
Woke propaganda harmful to children
As reports of the manual being released came to light, the backlash began. The manual mentions caste-patriarchy and claims of gender-fluidity being prevalent and accepted in the Vedic age – an unfounded claim. One of the main concerns was the mention of the removal of gender-segregated bathrooms in schools.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) received complaints in the wake of the manual’s release. One of those who complained was Vinay Joshi, a former RSS pracharak. He alleged that the manual was a criminal conspiracy and would psychologically traumatise children. He said this was being done under the name of ‘gender sensitisation.’
The NCPCR then wrote to the NCERT based on the complaints received. They highlighted some of the concerns based on the proposals put forward in the manual. The idea of gender-neutral infrastructure and removing binaries will deny children of diverse biological needs equal rights. They also stated that having two different or contradictory environments, one at school and another at home, would affect the psychology of children.
Ignorant, trans and queerphobic backlash
Of the criticisms levied against the NCERT’s move, one questioned the qualifications of those who consulted on it. The manual was coordinated by Dr Poonam Agrawal, Professor, and former Head of the Department of Gender Studies, NCERT. Others who gave their inputs were Vikramaditya Sahai, an Associate at the Centre for Law and Policy Research, and Priya Babu, the Managing Trustee at Transgender Resource Centre. It’s also received the backing of the Association for Transgender Health in India (ATHI) and various experts, health professionals, and educators.
The unfounded criticism of removing gender-segregated bathrooms is common among those who oppose gender-inclusive spaces. Part of the reasoning is safety. There’s research to debunk these claims. A 2018 Williams Institute study said there’s no evidence linking increased safety risks and transgender people using public facilities which align with their gender identity. In fact, in the US, research is being more widely cited in legal arguments.
The manual stated that the presence of binaries in infrastructure confuses and creates conflicts for gender non-conforming children. For those at that young age, such an emotional decision could be a burden on them. For many, this manual was an important document in fostering inclusivity in education. It’s also deeply personal, as retired college professor Nilakshi Roy stated being the mother of a queer individual. She started an online petition to make the NCERT reinstate the manual.
Despite support from various quarters, the NCERT succumbed to the backlash. They missed an opportunity to make the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people better. Simply put, inclusive spaces and infrastructure benefits all persons and doesn’t dilute the rights of others.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
On the anxiety-driven pursuit of cultural purity
For the Left:
Why Independent India should have adopted pluralism rather than secularism
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Saving a species (Arunachal Pradesh) – The “elusive” swallowtail Kaiser-i-Hind has become Arunachal’s State butterfly. Its name means “Emperor of India” and is found in 6 states in the Eastern Himalayas. Despite the butterfly being protected under Schedule II of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, it is still hunted by butterfly collectors. This move was made to protect the species from extinction in the state. It is also important to note that the butterfly also flutters in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and southern China.
Losing a generation (Jammu & Kashmir) – Experts believe that “a majority of the young people may fall prey to drug abuse” due to the wide availability of heroin in the region. Their Police Chief Dilbag Singh even believes that Pakistan is responsible for this sudden influx of brown sugar as they are “targeting youngsters”. Most medical and social workers share the opinion that “while the violence caused by three decades of terrorism has consumed a generation, the drug menace will negatively affect the present generation.” Some even believe that its effects have already started showing themselves among the youth of Jammu & Kashmir.
Appropriate recruitments (Bihar) – In a welcome turn of events, the state government is to appoint a professor as its Director of Higher Education. The appointment will take place through an “open advertisement” put up by the state’s education department. Only people who have “at least three years of university service left” and are working under Bihar’s university service are expected to apply. Regarding this decision, the Bihar State Higher Education Council’s vice-chairman Kameshwar Jha said that it would “ensure fairness and transparency” in the selection process.
Women in cricket (Gujarat) – For the first time, around 22 differently-abled women are being “trained to become professional cricket umpires and scorers” in Vadodara. Once the training programme ends, the women will be eligible for a cricket tournament, from local ones to internationals. According to Nitendra Singh, the chief coach and director of the Divyang Cricket Control Board of India (DCCBI), the goal of the programme is to get “differently-abled umpires in mainstream cricket tournaments.” Thus, making cricket a more inclusive sport.
Trouble in the High Court (Tamil Nadu) – The Supreme Court’s proposal to prematurely transfer the Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee to Meghalaya has caused quite the controversy among lawyers. Both the Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) and the Madras Bar Association have “joined the chorus” against the transfer. Saying that the Chief Justice has been “effectively conducting the judicial administration in Tamil Nadu”, the lawyers are standing strong in their boots. This isn’t an isolated incident either. Over the last few months, the apex court set up transfers of several High Court justices.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
400% – According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, cybercrimes committed against children in India in 2020 rose by 400% compared to 2019. Terrifyingly, most of these cybercrime cases are related to the “publishing or transmitting of materials depicting children in [a] sexually explicit act.” Out of the 842 cases in total, 738 were of children in such acts.