Purbanchal University comes under fire for denying registration and admit card to a student identifying as a trans woman

The incident sparks conversation on the exclusionary way Nepal’s education institutions treat transgender students.

Purbanchal University. Image: Purbanchal University official website

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: While all of her friends received their admit cards on Friday, Rukshana Kapali was denied of hers—because of “registration issues,” she was told by her college administration. It came as a surprise to Kapali because she had submitted all the required documents to the college. While earlier, she was told that her registration was pending because of issues with her migration certificate, she later found out that it was her gender that the university had issues with. Without an admit card, Kapali won’t be able to sit in the university exams, slated to begin on Monday.

“I came to know about this almost at the eleventh hour and I don’t know what to do,” Kapali tweeted on Friday. “I am so mentally disturbed right now! I don’t think I am able to focus on preparing for the exam!”

Kapali, a first-year BA LLB student at Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy, a college of law affiliated with Purbanchal University, is a transgender woman. And she believes it is her gender that is obstructing her way to sit in exams.

Kapali was brought up as a male but after the tenth grade, she came out as a transgender woman. Her legal documents, including her birth certificate and educational certificates for grade eight and ten, marked her as male and had her deadname. In 2015, she applied for a citizenship certificate and was denied to choose a female gender marker. She could convince authorities to have her preferred name on the citizenship certificate, but her gender was labeled “Others”.

Kapali, a first-year BA LLB student at Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy, a college of law affiliated with Purbanchal University, is a transgender woman. And she believes it is her gender that is obstructing her way to sit in exams.

That same year, she enrolled in 11th grade, then known as +2, but the discrepancy between her citizenship certificate and school documents brought issues in her registration. She had to seek an alternative method, of receiving a certificate of recommendation from her local ward office that stated that Rukshana and her deadname are the names of the same person. Only then was she able to register for her +2. She passed her +2 degree without any other hassle. In the +2, not only was she able to register with her preferred name but she could also list her gender as female.

In 2017, she enrolled in Tri-Chandra Multiple Campus, Kathmandu (affiliated with Tribhuvan University) for Bachelor in Arts (BA) majoring in Linguistics and Sociology. However, her application for registration at the University was denied due to a discrepancy in her educational certificates (+2 documents and SLC documents). She made multiple written and oral applications to the university, but her request was not met with any decision.

She attempted to amend name and gender details in her SLC documents, registered an application in 2019 May, but the National Examinations Board rejected her request and handed over a letter of rejection in 2020 January. 

She tried to access multiple academic courses, while the administrative procedure was ongoing, such as learning a foreign language at Campus of International Languages, Kathmandu, Sanskrit language classes by Sanskrit University, or programs by Council For Technical Education and Vocational Training–each of these courses required submission of a copy of SLC certificate–which was incongruent with her gender identity, and she was met with barriers as well as rejection, a “humiliating experience,” she says.

“I tried a lot to change my name and gender on the SLC certificate but failed to do so,” Kapali told Nepal Live Today. “Its case is also running in the Supreme Court but no decision has been made so far, as the case is still in the queue. The difference in information between the certificate of +2   and SLC is the only thing that is making all this happen.” 

Kapali has demanded interim orders with SC that could let her attend and enroll in any programs where she needs to submit her SLC certificate. But the demand was denied by the court. The court decided not to issue an interim order and send for full hearing.

“Not to deny the petitioner from accessing or enrolling to any programs where she is expected to submit her SLC certificate, and allowing her to use her preferred name as well as a gender marker,” the demanded interim order reads.

But her demands haven’t been addressed yet. The delay in legal procedure is creating hassles for her, she said.

While Kapali is anxious about her exam, an official from Purbanchal University told Nepal Live Today that she has all the rights to appear in the exam.  

“Kapali can appear in all the exams,” said Yubraj Dhital, deputy controller of law and Management faculty, PU. “There is nothing wrong that would obstruct her from appearing in the exam.”

While on the other side, Kapali hasn’t received any message so far stating that she can attend the exams. Kapali’s attempts to reach out to college officials went in vain, she said.

Her registration was pending “because one of her documents is insufficient,” Dhital told Nepal Live Today. “We have already informed the college about it. Once the college will send the document to us, she will be able to appear in the exam.” But Dhital said he is unaware of what the document is about.

Following Kapali’s tweets, people on social media are showing solidarity with her right to education.

“We study under the same university yet, I’m revising for my exams while Rukshana ji is fighting to simply appear in the exam,” a Twitter user going by the name Nikki G writes. “This is beyond cruel and absolutely outrageous.”

Queer Youth Group, an organization working towards queer rights, issued a press release to condemn the University for its apparently exclusionary treatment against Kapali. The Group urged the university to immediately resolve Kapali’s problem.

“Kapali is just a representational character,” the group said. “There are thousands of other transgender people like her who are deprived of basic rights…The whole nation has been unable to take such issues seriously.”

Update: Kapali gets her admit card just before her exams kicked off, on Monday, she informed through her Twitter account.

“Got an admit card at the final hours,” she tweeted. “No issues with gender and name in the admit card. I am literally shaking. #JusticeForTransPeopleInNepal Thank you all for your support.”