How typically do we sit and query our gender or sexual identity? Is it constantly the identical as the biological sex that we are born in? Can it be independent entity, irrespective of our biological sex? Most of us assume, for lack of additional details that our all round sexuality that incorporates our sex, gender, sexual orientation and sexual behavior are all determined at some point by way of some ‘natural’ genetic intervention for the duration of our birth and there is practically nothing a single can do about it. We are taught to think in strict binaries of male and female and the separate social roles linked with each. These days when we see a tv advertisement, exactly where our hero denies a young quite woman’s courtship, just as he realized that this eye-catching lady utilised to be a man. Oh! And every person chuckles. Nicely, it is not that funny. Transsexuality as a phenomenon has gained pretty small visibility or understanding in our society – precisely why is it so uncomplicated for us to distance ourselves and laugh at it. Our society in truth consists of a single of the most visible transgender cultures in the planet – the ‘Eunuch’ (Hijra) Neighborhood. Eunuchs may have an accepted location in Indian society, but it is a location quite substantially at the bottom of the social heap – generating them not just a sexual but also a extremely deprived social minority.

Transgender communities have existed in most components of the planet with their personal regional identities, customs and rituals. They are referred to as baklas in the Philippines, berdaches amongst American Indian tribes, serrers in Africa and hijras, jogappas, jogtas, shiv-shaktis and aravanis in South Asia. The hijra neighborhood in India, which has a recorded history of a lot more than four,000 years, was deemed to have specific powers mainly because of its third-gender status. It was aspect of a effectively-established `eunuch culture’ in numerous societies, in particular in West Asia, and its members held sanctioned positions in royal courts. Hijras trace their origins to myths in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Rama, though leaving for the forest upon getting banished from the kingdom for 14 years, turns about to his followers and asks all the `men and women’ to return to the city. Amongst his followers the hijras alone do not really feel bound by this path and make a decision to remain with him. Impressed with their devotion, Rama sanctions them the energy to confer blessings on men and women on auspicious occasions like childbirth and marriage, and also at inaugural functions. This set the stage for the custom of badhai in which hijras sing, dance and confer blessings. But nowadays, maintaining in thoughts the pathetic situation of them a single can say that this neighborhood really desires the blessings of Lord Rama a lot more than anybody so that at least they can subsist in the society with appropriate dignity, respect and most of the most vital identity.

Hijras (Eunuchs) in India have practically no protected spaces, not even in their households, exactly where they are protected from prejudice and abuse. The PUCL(K) Report on Human Rights Violations against the Transgender Neighborhood has documented the sort of prejudice that hijras face in Bangalore. The report shows that this prejudice is translated into violence, typically of a brutal nature, in public spaces, police stations, prisons and even in their houses. The primary aspect behind the violence is that society is not in a position to come to terms with the truth that hijras do not conform to the accepted gender divisions. In addition to this, most hijras have a reduced middle-class background, which tends to make them susceptible to harassment by the police. The discrimination primarily based on their class and gender tends to make the hijra neighborhood a single of the most disempowered groups in Indian society. The systematic violence that hijras face is reinforced by the institutions such as the loved ones, media and the healthcare establishments and is offered legitimacy by the legal method. The hijras face numerous sorts of state and societal harassments such as

Harassment by the police in public areas Harassment at household Police entrapment Abuse/harassment at police stations Rape in jails

The roots of modern violence against the hijra neighborhood can in truth be traced back to the historical kind that contemporary law in colonial India has taken. It took the kind of the enactment of the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 which was an extraordinary legislation that even departed from the principles on which the Indian Penal Code was primarily based. To establish an offence beneath the India Penal Code, the accusations against the accused has to be proved beyond affordable doubt in court of law. But specific tribes and communities had been perceived to be criminals by birth, with criminality getting passed on from generation to generation. It fitted in effectively with the hierarchical Indian social order, in which some communities had been perceived as unclean and polluted from birth. The hyperlink involving criminality and sexual non-conformity was produced a lot more explicit in the 1897 amendment to the Criminal Tribes Act on 1871, which was sub-titled, ‘An act for the Registration of Criminal Tribes and Eunuchs’. Beneath this law, the regional government was essential to retain a register of the names and residences of all eunuchs who had been “reasonably suspected of kidnapping or castrating young children or committing offences beneath Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code”. Any eunuch so registered could be arrested with out warrant and punished with imprisonment of up to two years or with a fine or each. The law also decreed eunuchs as incapable of acting as a guardian, generating a present, drawing up a will or adopting a son.

With regards to Civil law they are also not spared right here. The hijra neighborhood is deprived of many rights beneath civil law mainly because Indian law recognizes only two sexes. This indicates that hijras do not have the rights to vote, marry and personal a ration card, a passport or a driving license or claim employment and overall health positive aspects. In north and central India, hijras, who have contested and won elections to regional and State bodies, are now facing legal challenges. In February 2003, the Madhya Pradesh Higher Court struck down the election of Kamala Jaan as the Mayor of the Municipal Corporation of Katni. The court’s logic was that due to the fact Kamala Jaan was not a lady, she could not contest the seat, which was reserved for girls. Lawyer Pratul Shandilya, who is arguing Kamala Jaan’s case, mentioned: “I have currently filed the Particular Leave Petition (SLP) just before the Supreme Court, and the court has also granted leave in the petition.” The Higher Court verdict came regardless of a path from the Election Commission (E.C.) in September 1994 that hijras can be registered in the electoral roles either as male or female based on their statement at the time of enrolment. This path was offered by the E.C. soon after Shabnam, a hijra candidate from the Sihagpur Assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh, wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner enquiring about which category hijras had been classified beneath.

The law that is utilised most to threaten the hijra and kothi communities, as effectively as the homosexual neighborhood in India, is Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, lady or animal” even if it is voluntary. In impact, it criminalizes specific types of sexual acts that are perceived to be `unnatural’. The law, which has its origin in colonial tips of morality, in impact presumes that a hijra or a homosexual particular person is engaging in `carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, as a result generating this complete lot of marginalized communities vulnerable to police harassment and arrest. The Immoral Site visitors Prevention Act (ITPA) of 1956 (amended in 1986), whose stated objective is to criminalize brothel-maintaining, trafficking, pimping and soliciting, in reality targets the visible figure of the sex worker and enables the police to arrest and intimidate the transgender sex-worker population.

According to the two primary diagnostic systems utilised in the Indian healthcare establishment, transsexualism is defined as a `gender identity disorder’. The medical doctors ordinarily prescribe a sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), which presently resorts to hormone therapy and surgical reconstruction and could incorporate electrolysis, speech therapy and counseling. Surgical building could incorporate the removal of male sex organs and the building of female ones. Due to the fact government hospitals and certified private practitioners do not ordinarily execute SRS, numerous hijras go to quacks, as a result putting themselves at really serious threat. Neither the Indian Council for Healthcare Analysis (ICMR) nor the Healthcare Council of India (MCI) has formulated any recommendations to be followed in SRS. The attitude of the healthcare establishment has only reinforced the low sense of self-worth that numerous hijras have at many moments in their lives.

With every single single issue going against the Eunuchs a notable quantity of awareness has also been observed all more than the planet. About the planet, nations are starting to recognize the rights of transgender men and women. In a landmark judgment (Christine Goodwin vs. the United Kingdom, 2002) the European Court of Human Rights declared that the U.K. government’s failure to alter the birth certificates of transsexual men and women or to permit them to marry in their new gender part was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. It mentioned that a test of biological things could no longer be utilised to deny recognition legally to the modify of gender that a transsexual had undergone. In New Zealand, in New Zealand Lawyer Common vs. the Loved ones Court at Otahuhu (1994), the court upheld the principle that for purposes of marriage, transsexual men and women must be legally recognized in their re-assigned sex.

OF late the Indian hijra neighborhood has begun to mobilize themselves by way of the formation of a collective. Sangama, an organization functioning with hijras, kothis and sex workers in Bangalore, has played an vital part by assisting them organize and fight for their rights. Its solutions incorporate organizing a drop-in centre for hijras and kothis, conducting a series of public rallies and marches, utilizing legal help in case of police harassment, and establishing hyperlinks with other social movements.

The organizations of the hijra neighborhood can be observed as constituting a bigger movement of sexual minority groups in India. They are difficult the constitutional validity of Section 377 and are organizing a campaign questioning the government’s stand that the law must stay. The discrimination and violence that hijras face show that it is higher time that each the government and the human rights movement in the nation start to take this problem with the seriousness it deserves.