In a first for India, Panjab University will have a separate toilet for transgender people. This has been made possible by Dhananjay Chauhan, a transgender activist, who has been relentlessly fighting for a separate toilet for the university for three years.
Dhananjay is a transwoman and the first transgender person in the university. She is currently pursuing Masters of Rights and Duties. She also has a masters degree from IGNOU in Social Work.
It is noteworthy that Panjab University was the first to bring in the ‘third gender column’ in the admission forms in India, in 2015. The campus agreed to build a toilet for transgender people, once someone from the community takes admission in the university. According to the Galaxy Magazine, when Dhananjay took admission, she convinced the administration to build the toilet. The work for the toilet started this month.
As the only transgender person at the campus, Dhananjay faced trouble but eventually gained support from her peers after they were sensitized. After making the separate toilet a reality, her next plan is to fight for a hostel for trans people and remitting tuition fees.
A lot of transgender activists have been fighting for the right to use either gendered bathroom, contrary to what Dhananjay has been fighting for. On April 3, as part of the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan, it was made mandatory to build male and female public restrooms for transgender persons. But according to The Hindu, Binita Shah, Copy Group Head at TBWA,
“Though transgenders were not barred from entering either gendered bathrooms before this, the law was a very progressive move by the government, but society was taking a while to respond. In my own friends circle, I saw many people having hesitations: ‘What about our safety’? The way they perceive transgenders is like, they are going to do something to them.”
With the lack of awareness and sensitization, it does make sense to have a separate toilet for transgender people. But it shouldn’t stop us there. The duty of breaking the stigma and sensitizing lies with the government and the public to reach a point where there wouldn’t be a need to build separate toilets for transgender people. A point where they feel comfortable to use either gendered toilet of their choice.