The NEP also fails to address LGBTQIA+ concerns. The NEP is vaguely worded and it is dubitable if the government would follow an inclusionary approach. As the Japan Times and other articles point out, India’s dismal record on LGBTQIA+ rights means that the government’s positive response is improbable. The regressive and lackadaisical attitude of the society towards LGBTQIA+ rights is common knowledge. An instance of it was on showcase when the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, representing the Government of India, stated in the apex court that “our law, our legal system, our society, our values do not recognize” same-sex marriages. The policy does not even recognise a majority of LGBTQIA+ and clubs all the identities together under one term, “transgender”. Though it mandates the formation of a Gender-Inclusion Fund for girls and transgender students, it allows the central government to manage the fund and prioritise schemes as the centre deems fit. The criteria of this prioritisation have not been laid down. Moreover, there has been no news of any new policy that will be introduced and these half-baked policy measures do not provide much hope for the future. The policy fails at ensuring a safe and bias-free environment for the LGBTQA+ community, it is not a hidden fact the various stereotypes riddle our whole society and manifest themselves in more often than not, violent formssuch as harassment, ridiculing and bullying. International Commission of Jurists in its 2019 report recorded how for majority of transgender persons, discrimination begins in school. This finding was corroborated by the UNESCO Report which researched and analysed how bullying of children was prevalent in India based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The formation of national register on transgender children ( DNEP 2019 Chapter 6, Equitable and Inclusive Education, P.6.7.1) seems to serve no purpose and may lead to a detrimental labelling of a child at a young age, gender. The concepts of gender and sexual identities are complex and an inclusive school environment cannot be the one which fixes a behaviour into set genders and sexuality labels at such a budding stage. Moreover, this proposed data bank violates the right to privacy and goes against the constitutional values of dignity and privacy. The policy also ignores the inclusion of LGBTQA+ community in the teaching arena thereby including no measure to ensures that there would more representation of the community in the academic field. The policy can be on some fronts said to be comprehensive, fails to design a suitable learning environment for the LGBTQA+ community
Effect of Aforementioned Impediments to Education on the Exercise of Rights
Literacy was declared a necessary condition for the effective enjoyment of human rights way back in 1968 in the Final Act of the International Conference on Human Rights held in Tehran. The impediments to literacy that the policy creates in accessing institutions, opportunities and critical services would inexorably cast a chilling effect on the free exercise of individual rights and entitlements. Adults with little to no education are more prone to ill health, exploitation and human rights abuse. Unable to read or write, they are stunted from reaching their full potential. The fear of discrimination and the thorny embrace of social reproach impedes the uninhibited exercise of the rights to self-expression, employment and education. Even fundamental rights like the right to receive safe drinking water are affected by literacy levels. As has been concluded in repeated studies, more literate women have access to safe drinking water. Further, in the case of Mohini Jain vs. the State of Karnataka, the court relied on specific directive principles enshrined in the form of Articles 38, 39, 41 and 45, based on which it was concluded that fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens under Articles 19 and 21 could not be realised without ensuring the right to education. The NEP’s lack of recognition of material solutions for gender justice in providing education hinders the enjoyment of more socio-economic human rights. Thus, the NEP, by going against one of the most basic human rights, that of gender equality, also risks violating several other rights granted to all citizens of India, irrespective of gender, sex or sexual orientation. The NEP tries to tackle the challenges of retention, facilitation and growth of students who hail from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds due to their gender, social or cultural identity, among others, by grouping them as SEDGS (Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups). While it is commendable that the policy recognises the needs and barriers faced by such students, clubbing of such diverse identities and disadvantages under a common umbrella makes it problematic to address each group’s typical concerns and invariably dilutes the intention of establishing equity.
To conclude, though the NEP aspires to be more gender-inclusive, it ends up falling short of the goal. Forgetting to include the issues of women and LGBTQIA+ is irredeemable in the 21st century. It is against the ethos of the democracy that India aspires to be as laid down in India’s Constitution and reiterated by the country’s Supreme Court in numerous judgements. At best, the NEP 2020 is a collection of some clearly stated measures, several feel-good intents, and a few broad-brush strokes of ideas underlying potential policies, along with selective sprinkling of a few logistical details. The policy’s reliance on surface-level solutions for gender justice in providing education hinders the enjoyment of socio-economic human rights. The policy needs to be revisited to ensure that a future India is a more equitable and inclusive society in which people live without fear and with heads held high.