A university in Mumbai has opened the country’s first gender-neutral hostel.
The inclusive hostel, located in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, comes after a successful campaign by student group Queer Collective, which has advocated for a safe space for LGBTI students and staff at the university for over a year.
‘It is a place for everyone, but without the dysphoria of being segregated along the lines of gender,’ queer first-year student Akunth told The Indian Express.
‘It is a liberal space in the sense that all students can come and chill.’
The living space is housed on the ground floor of the female hostel, which the university set aside for the gender-neutral living quarters.
‘I identify as queer and am currently residing in one of the men’s hostels. But for some time I have been staying in the gender-neutral hostel on a trial basis,’ said 25-year-old student, Mithoon.
‘I feel more welcome in this hostel. There are people around me who are visibly queer and there are friends who understand my struggles. It gives me the confidence to express myself,’ he added.
Dean of student affairs, Asha Bano, said: ‘The hostel is a collective effort by students, faculty, and administration […] Once we all agreed that the hostel was needed, discussions on the details of the hostel began.’
There are currently 17 residents in the hostel, with three additional spaces available. The Queer Collective said that their next move will be to introduce a number of gender-neutral bathrooms on the institute.
Celebrating the repeal of Section 377
The hostel comes as many in India’s LGBTI community are still celebrating the decriminalization of homosexual sex throughout the country.
In a landmark ruling earlier this month, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that Section 377, a statute which criminalized homosexual sex, was unconstitutional and should be repealed.
The ruling was monumental for the LGBTI rights movement throughout the world.
The court’s decision meant that the number of people living in a country where gay sex is illegal dropped from 42% of the global population to 24%.