Kozhikode: Calicut University will approach the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) to amend the rules for its transgender student Riya Isha, so that it would be beneficial for such students to participate in sports competitions in future too. The current age limit of 25 is preventing Riya from taking part in the All-India Inter University Athletics Championship to be held in Mangaluru from November 24 to 28.
Calicut University made history while letting a transgender student compete in the university level athletics competition along with female students. Riya, a first year degree student from Government College, Malappuram, won first position in 3-km walk, long jump and hammer throw. The university syndicate gave a special permission to let the 28-year-old student compete in the women's section.
However, according to the rules of the AIU, only students aged 25 or below can compete in the All-India Inter-University Athletics Championship. In other universities or colleges, there are no stipulated rules to let transgender students compete, since there are provisions only for men or women.
Calicut University's sports department head Sakeer Hussain V P told Onmanorama that they would inform their concern on the rights of the transgender students to the AIU. “The Syndicate standing committee had decided to approve the participation of Riya this year. Vice-Chancellor K Mohammed Basheer also approved it and will take it to the AIU. There were no complaints from other competitors regarding Riya's participation in the varsity meet. The issues raised by the transgender students are genuine. They are not able to complete their education in a stipulated time like the other students and some are still being ostracised,” he said.
“We are trying our level best to bring them to the forefront. It is a denial of rights as well as opportunity for the transgender students, and the university would definitely take up the matter with the AIU. At least in future, more students like her would receive equal opportunity like the male or female students. In my opinion, even the doors of other activities in the campus like the National Service Scheme and National Cadets Corps should be opened to transgender students also. Opportunities should not be denied on factors like religion, caste or gender,” Dr Basheer said.
Santhi Soundarajan's fight
In this context it is worth remembering the fight of Tamil Nadu athlete Santhi Soundarajan. Santhi had to return her silver medal in 800m at the 2006 Doha Asian Games after she failed a gender test. She was diagnosed with hyperandrogenism, which is characterised by circulation of excessive testosterone in the female body.
However, Santhi continued her fight and a decade later, she received a job offer from the secretariat appointing her as a permanent coach under the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu to train athletes at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.