Recently, in a historic win Supreme Court scraped down Section 377 that criminalised homosexuality and now India has become the first-ever country to have a gender-neutral hostel. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai’s Deonar has become the first campus in India to have a gender-neutral hostel. In April, TISS issued a notification which said that the ground floor of the girls’ hostel was marked as a gender-neutral space. And now, seventeen students have moved into this separate block that will host transgender or gender non-conforming students. Section 377 Verdict Full Text: Read Complete Supreme Court Judgment on Decriminalising Homosexuality.
Akunth, first-year student of TISS and a resident of the city’s first gender-neutral hostel space, told Indian Express, “It is a place for everyone but without the dysphoria of being segregated along the lines of gender. It is a liberal space in the sense that all students can come and chill.” Akunth was recently elected cultural secretary to the student union. He further said, “It’s just like any other hostel. Some people are asking us for photographs of the hostel as if we are having a huge unicorn inside.”
The space is a result of the efforts by Queer Collective, an informal student body advocating a safe space for LGBTQ+ students. As reported by Indian Express, the QC now intends to build gender-neutral washrooms on the campus. Diti Lekha, a member of QC told, “Currently all those individuals who are uncomfortable using a male or female washroom are using the ones in the gender-neutral hostel. It goes on to say that there is a demand for gender-neutral washrooms.”
Earlier this year, the institute gave graduating students the option to choose from the salutations of Ms, Mr or a gender-neutral ‘Mx’ in their certificates. Akunth said, “There are some things which have societal acceptance and there are things which do not. Identities that do not have societal acceptance then claim marginality and try to move upwards. I think the hostel is one of those steps.” TISS has set precedent for many other institutions across the country.