The interim Punjab government issued a landmark notification last week, according to which transgender students will be given indiscriminate admissions and will be treated equally in all government and private schools across the province.
It is indeed a crucial and much needed step towards including a highly marginalised and deprived section of our society into the mainstream, and one that will go far towards the cause of providing equal opportunities to the less fortunate ones.
The Punjab School Education Department (SED) issued directives to all chief executive officers of District Education Authorities (DEA) in all 36 districts of the province to ensure the implementation of the policy.
According to the notification, CEOs have been given special instructions regarding transgender students. The notification reads, “In order to recognize/protect the rights of transgender children in Pakistan under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 (Act No. XIII of 2018), it is advised that the following instructions be observed by the School Administration while dealing with Transgender Children.”
The notification directs authorities concerned that transgender children must be treated on an equal basis and their gender maybe included in the relevant documentation at the time of admission. “In the column of gender their real status (Transgender) may be mentioned at the time of admission”.
“During Annual Enrollment & Retention Campaign, equal importance may be given for boys, girls and transgender in order to achieve 100% enrollment & retention targets,” it adds. The notification asks the CEOs to ensure implementation in all government and private educational institutions in Punjab and to treat the matter as top priority.
What The Law Says
According to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018 passed in May this year, the government is obligated to provide, among other things, education to the transgender citizens. It says that the government shall take steps to provide free and compulsory education to transgender persons as guaranteed under Article 25A of the Constitution. The Transgender Persons act further restrains public and private institutions from discriminating against any citizen. It reads, “It is unlawful for an institution whether private or public, to discriminate against a person on the ground of person’s sex, gender identity and/or gender expression.”
With respect to education, the act says, “There shall be no discrimination against Transgender Persons in acquiring admission in any educational institutions, public or private, subject to fulfilment of the prescribed requirements”. Additionally, the act says all educational institutions “shall provide education and opportunities for sports, recreation and leisure activities without any discrimination, and on an equal basis with others”.