[ View the story "India's 'third gender': A marginalised social class" on Storify] India's 'third gender': A marginalised social class Hijras fight for recognition in society.
The Stream· Thu, Oct 17 2013 11:17:21
With a unique culture spanning thousands of years in South Asia,
consider themselves neither male nor female. In ancient India, this "third sex" included barren women, impotent men, eunuchs, and hermaphrodites/intersex. Today "hijra" (also known in different communities as Kinnar, Kothi, Aravanis, Jogtas/Jogappas, Khusras or Shiv-Shaktis) refers to those born male or intersexed who live and dress like women. Many biological male hijras undergo a sacred ritual of castration ("
") or sex reassignment surgery. There are upwards of
Indians who identify as hijra, but statistics vary as the population census only includes "male" or "female" categories.
Hijras were once a
and accepted group in Indian culture. The Vedas, ancient Hindu texts, include eunuchs and characters with both male and female characteristics. They were believed to bring luck and provide special fertility powers. During the
period, eunuchs played an important role in the court administration as royal guards. For centuries, they have
or blessings at weddings and births.
@mmbilal @AJStream pre Euro-Christian contact hijras were a regular group in Indian society. They were respected & not treated as outcastsZahira
Their sanctioned place in Indian culture
during the British colonial period. Introduced in 1860 and not abolished until 2009, section 377 of the Indian Penal Code outlawed "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." Also that year, the Election Commission
"other" gender identification.
Thanks to the Election Commission of India for its decision to include 'Others' recognizing gender queer people. It is a landmark decisionKalki Subramaniam
The government's Aadhar program, started in 2009 that gives each citizen a unique ID number, now
An Aadhar card helps marginalised communities open bank accounts, get mobile phones and receive some government services . However, it is estimated that as little as
25 per cent
of transgenders obtain an Aadhar card. Transgenders are still
from receiving driver licences, PAN cards (national tax system) and ration cards.
@AJStream most of the #transgender individuals in #India live in poverty. Out of desperation, they coerce roadside vendors, #LGBT 1/3Giresh Nair
@AJStream restaurants & shops to part with some cash. Also in trains too. Ppl give cash fearing embarrassment #LGBT #India #transgender 2/3Giresh Nair
As a result of limited access to healthcare, employment or education, many hijras are pushed to the margins of society.
Being Hijra, I am not Indian ENOUGH………………… Once again it is not about being human or an individual but what sex you are born with or what gender preference you have. Just two days before I was giving lecture on six main fundamental rights of OUR COUNTRY, Which are right to equality, right to freedom, right to freedom of religion, right against exploitation, cultural and educational rights and right to constitutional remedies. And now I am not Indian or human enough to exercise my Rights.pastebin.com
Netizens commented on the social stigma facing India's hijras.
@sarah3amos Indian #transgenders No one talks to them , no one sits next to them, no one wants to do bizness with them. Lifetime of sufferinPritash Chaudry
@AJStream in #India effeminate boys are ragged, laughed at & humiliated, so you can imagine the plight of #transgender #LGBT folks @mmbilalGiresh Nair
Some netizens explained their mistrust of hijras.
@AJStream while I was on holiday in India I was told to give them money if they asked/approached otherwise they'd curse me with witchcraft.Hanna
@AJStream They rob people in markets, in trains. They don't work but beg.Shona Baba
The situation for hijras in India is gradually improving. In 2000 Shabnam Mausi was the first hijra to be
into Indian parliament.
Shabnam Mausi demands fixing the rates of tips asked by #hijras. Nice attempt to improve the image of the community:
In August 2013, 200 leaders from the transgender community
in Chennai for a state-level conference discussing the challenges facing their community.
Activists such as
have given a voice to transgender individuals in India who are claiming their space is society.
Kalki Subramaniam's Photos | Facebookfacebook.com
Hijra, ladies and gentleman please use other bathroom.
#AllianceIndia’s Abhina Aher was the first #hijra from #India to lead the #PraguePride Walk.
#Pehchan #LGBT #TGAlliance India
While some see hijras as a part of the global LGBT movement, many
back to their pre-colonial heritage.
@AJStream @mmbilal Even this concept of "trans"- gender,sexual, etc is Western. There were groups like hijras all over the world incl. OmanZahira
What is preventing hijras from attaining the acceptance in Indian society that they desire?