The Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai has introduced India’s first gender-neutral hostel space, which will be available to gender non-conforming and transgender students from the next academic year, The Indian Express reported on Friday. The institute issued the notification on Thursday saying that the ground floor of an existing women’s hostel would be allotted to the gender non-conforming students on a first-come-first-serve basis.
“We have been trying to achieve this for some time,” Dean of Students Affairs Professor PK Shahjahan told The Hindu. “The gender amity committee and student representatives have decided to create this space. This will be done on an experimental basis for one year, and we will take stock next year.”
The TISS Queer Collective, which has been advocating for such a space for LGBTQ students, said a lot of work still remains to be done. “When we first saw the notification we couldn’t believe it,” said Christopher Nag, an MPhil student and a member of the collective. “We are waiting for clarity on the rules and regulations. We don’t want this to turn into another gendered space. Our struggle is for a gender-neutral space and not for a space for a third gender.” The rules that govern the hostels for men and women cannot be applied to the new space, he added.
The collective worked with students running for election to the students’ union to include this demand in their election manifesto, Sai Tejo, a second-year student told The Indian Express. The members of the collective then talked to their peers and teachers to convince them about the need for a gender-neutral hostel. The students’ union passed a resolution in September 2017 in its general body meeting, calling for a gender-neutral hostel space and gender-neutral toilets.