Assam queer activist launches petition for gender-neutral edu spaces 

Aizawl: Rituparna Neog, a passionate queer rights activist hailing from Assam, has advocated for a gender-neutral educational space in the state.

Founder and Director at Akam Foundation, an organization dedicated to education and gender justice, Rituparna has been actively engaged in mobilizing and organizing the queer community in Assam, with a particular focus on rural areas and small towns.

Her latest initiative, a petition titled #NoMoreHoldingMyPee, seeks to address a pressing issue that often goes unnoticed but profoundly impacts transgender individuals’ access to education.

In her petition, Rituparna highlights the discomfort and discrimination that many transgender individuals face within educational institutions. She questions, “Have you been misgendered on the basis of your clothes? Have you ever felt unsafe or been stared at in the washroom? Have you had to hold your pee, because using the assigned toilet makes you uncomfortable?”

These experiences, she notes, are all too common for transgender individuals, contributing to a higher rate of dropouts within the transgender community.

Rituparna’s petition underscores the binary division of toilets in educational institutions, which can lead to discrimination when transgender individuals are compelled to use facilities that correspond with the gender assigned to them at birth. “There have also been situations where we have had to hold our pee for the entire day due to avoiding such undignified treatment,” she laments.

Rituparna mentions the recent initiative by Tezpur Central University to introduce a gender-neutral washroom within the Department of Social Work. She questions why similar measures cannot be implemented in educational spaces across Assam.

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“This will not require a significant shift in infrastructure but will certainly necessitate a shift in mindsets,” Rituparna asserts. “We need to sensitize the staff, faculty, and students in these spaces about gender and sexuality. When people understand the nuances of gender politics, they will better comprehend the predicament that transgender individuals face while using the restroom,” she said.

The petition is directed towards Dr. Ranoj Pegu, the Minister of Education for the Government of Assam. It has already garnered 7,201 signatures, with a target of 7,500. 

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