Hyderabad: Kranthi Kotwal, a queer fourth-year law student at NALSAR, Hyderabad had a tough time in the initial days of college living in the boys' hostel. When the boys in the hostel found out that Kranthi was transgender, they turned hostile.
"The way people looked at me, the way they interacted with me, the way they treated me,..it was hostile," they say.
They* were given a two-sharing room in the boys' hostel. They* explain how difficult it was to share a room with a man. By the end of their* first year, considering their* concerns, Kranthi was given a single room with an attached washroom.
But soon the university realized that this was not an isolated experience. Several other queer students also experienced similar hardships in both boys' and girls' hostels. NALSAR Queer Collective along with the Student Bar Council created a committee to find solutions to similar issues. From the gender-neutral spaces to drafting an inclusive education policy for gender and sexual minorities, NALSAR is acing towards a campus where everyone is welcome, forget their sexual/gender identities.
On March 26, the university announced that they are converting the first floor of Girls Hostel 6 as a gender-neutral space, as in, any student irrespective of their gender can live there. Besides this, the university has designated one out of the four washrooms in the administrative block as gender-neutral. However, some infrastructural changes are to be made.
"A comprehensive policy for inclusive education for students belonging to the LGBTQ+ community has been pushed for by students from the community, collectives such as the NALSAR Queer Collective and the Student Bar Council. At present, gender-neutral washrooms have been created in the academic block and there is an interim policy in place for hostel accommodation. The SBC has created a committee to draft a final policy for the same - including infrastructure, identification & recognition, non-discrimination, and creation of a gender and sexual minorities committee. The committee currently consists of 5 students belonging to the LGBTQ+ community and 2 members of the Student Bar Council. Sanjeev Gumpenapalli, Kranthi Kotwal, Tara Thakur, Priyasha Sinha, Shivam Sharma, Kruttika Lokesh, Ankita Gupta, and Aviral Aggarwal currently constitute the committee. With pride and gratitude, I would like to point out that our Vice-Chancellor Faizan Mustafa has facilitated this process, given his approval and guidance at every step," says Ankita Gupta, General Secretary, NALSAR Students Bar Council (SBC).
No pressure or force, just an option
After NALSAR announced gender-neutral spaces, there was some concern about women's safety . But Kranthi, who is also a member of the committee says there is no pressure or force, it's just an option for those who do not fit into the rigid gender binary.
"We are just creating some spaces as gender-neutral. But women/men who feel safer using gender-segregated spaces are still free to use them. Gender-segregated spaces will be retained," they* say.
Everyone is welcome here
With this initiative, NALSAR is giving out a strong message that 'Everyone is welcome here.' "You don't have to care about your sexuality. The university recognizes people who do not fit into the binary," says Kranthi.
They also believe that this would be an inspiration for other universities to introduce similar initiatives.
For the students of NALSAR, it wasn't an easy task for them. It has taken years of effort to initiate this change. But they admit that the administration has been very receptive to their proposals.
Responding to criticisms of delay in implementing such a policy, Ankita says, "Agree, I think that this is not something to be celebrated but is mere compliance with the Trans Act and the NALSA judgment. We have a long way to go before we celebrate this."
(*The person wished to be identified with the pronoun '*they')