Ritual: The vast majority of hijras are males who undergo the 40-day
transformation – though female to male transformations also The
myth continues with the name of Iravan/Aravan,
a patron God of the well-known transgender communities called Ali. And many number
of 14th century texts in Sanskrit and Bengali namely Krittivasa Ramayana has high-lightened the practice of custom in
India. Though Hijras were recognized and given importance in our ancient custom
and practices, the conditions have been deteriorating generation by generation.
They were also
considered to hold religious authority and were sought out for blessings,
particularly during religious ceremonies. However, when the Indian subcontinent
came under colonial rule during the 19th century, British authorities
sought to eradicate and criminalize the Hijra community through
various laws. These laws were later repealed after India attained independence.
Hidden world of the hijras: Inside India’s
4,000-year-old transgender community where religious respect doesn’t protect
them from modern-day discrimination
Hijra is the term used
to describe cross dressers, intersex people and transgender women across south
Their communities date back more
than 4,000 and they appear in ancient texts as bearers of luck and fertility
But while for centuries they
were respected as spiritual figures in society, they now face discrimination in
write up very nicely illustrates about them dressing up in bright glamorous
sarees, make up well done and gathered in a group out of a temple to offer
blessing to visitors. As both of them stated –
“They are hijras, the term used to
describe cross dressers, intersex people and transgender women who make up
the country’s ‘third gender’. While some of the men are castrated in
their journey to become hijras, for many the transformation is a primarily
spiritual one. A number undertake a 40-day self-emasculation ritual in the name
of the Hindu goddess of Bachuchara Mata.”
Their communities across South-east Asia go back to
the ancient times where they are also referred to as bearers of luck and
fertility who were sought after to perform blessings and ceremonies, but this age old long standing religious respects
have not protected them from the modern-day problems, discrimination and
marginalisation of their communities in the common man’s society. Widespread
prejudice means that it can often be difficult for hijras to find permanent
homes – and they are often driven to live in communes on the fringes of
society. Within these communes, there is a firm social structure – which
revolves around the hierarchy of the Guru/mother, over her chela/daughter. If
the relationship between these generations is nurtured with love over the
years, then these groups can be a secure and safe place for young Hijras who
have been ostracised or deserted by their loved ones or families. Some of them
state that the Hijra Community is like a family and the big house is a place of
The modern world, Hijra comprise of both communities
in which spiritual meanings are preserved, and individuals who assume the
identity of hijra scratch out a living through begging, menial jobs and in some
cases sex work.
There are certain points highlighted distinctly from
the life of the Hijras/Transgenders/the third genders:
Dressed in brightly-coloured saris, the hijras sit and wait to receive gifts
and payments in exchange for carrying out blessings.
group of hijras sit outside the Temple of Bahuchara Mata in Becharaji, in
western India, regarded as their cultural centre.
Place: Hijras spend most of their time sitting outside the temple – so that
those looking for their services can always find them.
Disapproval: Those who do not give generously to the
waiting hijras can expect to be given a frosty reception and glaring looksoccur.
Worship: The temple honours Bachuchara Mata, a Hindu
goddess whose followers are known to self-emasculate in a ritual lasting 40
(from left to right, starting in back row) Meghna, Kajal, Sathi, Bansi, Maya
and Madhuja, live together in the commune
Sathi, a guru, sits with her arms wrapped around Maya, her chela, or daughter,
whom she will teach the customs of the hijra
Living: Pots, pans
and cleaning products are stacked on the shelf that runs along the wall of one
of the rooms of the commune
Structure: Within these communes, there is a firm social structure – organised
around the hierarchy of the guru, or mother, over her chela, or daughter.
quarters: Washing hangs over a simple wooden frame which serves as one of the
day beds in the commune.
Day to day
chores: Each one is assigned tasks to carry out the day to day work in the
commune to make it an easy for the smooth living of each and every member there.
So,all summed in a nutshell: Simple walls, floors and furniture make up the
commune, where the Hijras depend on each other to survive.
Evolution of the
Fundamental Rights for the Third Gender:
Fundamental rights are broadly
considered as human rights. Asan individual, a transgender should be assured
the legal rights which provide them a secure and healthy life.
It defines marriage as “the legal union as prescribed under this Act of a
man with a woman, a man with another man, a woman with another woman a
transgender with another transgender or a transgender with a man or a woman.
All married couple and couples in partnership entitled to adopt a child. Sexual
orientation of the married couple or the partners should not to be a bar to
their right to adoption. Non-heterosexual couples will be equally entitled to
adopt a child.
On 24 April 2015, the Rajya Sabha unanimously
passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 guaranteeing rights and entitlements, reservations in
education and jobs (2% reservation in government jobs), legal aid, pensions,
unemployment allowances and skill development for transgender people. It also
contains provisions to prohibit discrimination in employment as well as prevent
abuse, violence and exploitation of transgender people. The bill also provides
for the establishment of welfare boards at the centre and state level as well
as for transgender rights courts. The bill was introduced by DMK MP Trichy
Siva, and marked the first time the Upper House had passed a private member’s
bill in 45 years. However, the bill contains several anomalies and a lack of
clarity on how various ministries will co-ordinate to implement its provisions.
The bill is still pending in the Lower House.
The Indian Government should amend the Transgender Rights
Bill to ensure that trans genders can self-identify their legal gender without
unwanted intervention from committees or experts, be they medical,
psychological, or anyone else; and this alone should form the basis for their
access to all rights, social security measures, benefits, and entitlements.
Only then can the law support the communities it seeks to protect and empower.
The Parliamentary Committee, headed by Bais, has made a great start in backing
trans rights in India. Now it’s up to the government to not only enact a good
law, but repeal the Colonial Legacy of section 377 as well.
Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India (UOI) : The
term Hijra is widely used
in South Asia, social workers and community activists encourage the public to
use the socially conscious and more encompassing term Hwaaja Sira; this includes persons who identify as transgender,
transsexual, a cross-dresser, or eunuch. There are a number of terms used
throughout India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and their various dialects that
reference these communities, but for consistency purposes, these communities
will be referred to here as Hijras within the context of this
Even though the
Hijra community is still respected and honored by society at large and
celebrated in religious or spiritual ceremonies, they are often looked down on
or degraded and often victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate
crimes against the community are common, as is housing and other discrimination.
There are several recorded outbursts of protest by the third genders/
hijras/gays/lesbian for their basic and human rights in the social community
and to a certain extent they have been given their rights. The government has
tried to address this by introducing bills for the protection of
transgender persons, with prison terms and other punishments for those
A 2014 ruling in the Supreme Court of India,
declared that a third gender would be recognized on all official documentation
for the transsexual, transgender, eunuch, and cross-dresser communities. This
legal status aimed to allow equal access to education, healthcare, and
In the year 2015, summer has seen a whirlwind
of human rights news: The U.S Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex
marriage, racially charged protests and discussions on transgender rights.
Society is becoming more aware of people’s differences in opinion, be it their
lifestyle choice or political standing. However, some of these differences,
which are considered to be radically different than the norm, have actually
been around for thousands of years. Such is the case of the Hijras, the South Asian transsexual and transgender community in India,
who have been open about their self-identification for centuries.
While Indian law
recognizes transgender people, including Hijras, as a third gender, other
South Asian countries, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan,
have recognized only Hijras as the third gender. This is even when
the larger LGBT community faces severe legal disadvantages and when
same-sex sexual relations are illegal in the country. The Supreme Court of
India ruled in favor of a ‘third gender,’ recognizing members of the hijra
community. But while the ruling granted hijra some political and economic
rights – discrimination and ignorance still threaten their livelihoods.
Achievements of Transgenders:
Despite facing all kinds of discrimination and social stigma,
these are the few examples of trans genders who have achieved greater heights
and proved the importance of higher education in their lives
Kalki Subramanianis the first
transgender woman to star in a major film, “Narthagi,” in 2011. Also a poet and
a painter, she has established a strong transgender rights community with a
global reach. She holds two masters degrees,
one in Journalism and Mass Communication, and another in Intellectual
Relations.. Kalki is a journalist, a writer, and a social activist who is also
the founder of the Sahodari Foundation
which was established in 2008 for transgender community. In year 2015, she received the Facebook award for the 12
Most Inspirational Women in the World who are using Facebook for Community
Padmini Prakash is an Indian News Anchor. She is the
first transgender news anchor of India. She appears every evening at 19:00 to
present a news show on the Lotus TV .she is a trained Kathak dancer and has
acted in Tamil soap operas before joining the news channel. She has also been awarded
as Miss Transgender India in 2009.
Madhu Bai Kinnar
Madhu Bai Kinnar expelled
from her home became the first transgender woman who won the municipal election
in Raigarh in the central state of Chhattisgarh, beating her rival from Prime
Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) by more than 4,500 votes,
according to the state election commission. She is
a street-play artist and also a folk dance performer who earlier earned her
living by singing and dancing on a train.
On 9thjune 2015Manabi Bandyopadhyay became the
first transgender to hold the position of a Principal atKrishnagar Women’s College. Bandopadhyay completed her
MA in Bengali and then she became the first transgender from West Bengal to complete
a PhD. On the other hand, she also became the first transgendered professor
when she joined Vivekananda Centenary College in Jhargram (WestBengal) as
a lecturer in the late 1990s.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a transgender right
activist, bollywood actor and Bharatnatyam dancer in Mumbai. she
pursued arts degree from Mumbai’s Mithibai College
and a postgraduate degree in Bharatnatyam .She is the first transgender person
to represent Asia Pacific in the UN in 2008.
Members of these
communities are also standing up for noble causes outside of their own-for
instance, in the below PSA for seatbelt safety in India.
Reforms and Initiatives
implemented for the upliftment of the third genders:
have been taken across different states in India for the betterment of
transgender community so that they are not isolated from societal activities
and to ensure that they lead an independent life.
The New Delhi government for the
benefit of transgender community has initiated the launch of umbrella scheme in
order to provide better education facilities to transgender children and also
financial aid to work .In addition, this scheme would also provide monetary
benefit to families with transgender children and encourage them not to abandon
them. The ministry of social justice and empowerment is giving finishing
touches to an umbrella scheme which would be launched in the next financial year.
This scheme would consist of five components that is pre-matric and post-matric scholarship for
transgender children that would help them pursue their higher studies , support
for vocational training of trans genders, pension for out-of-work trans genders
in the age group of 40 to 60 years and monthly monetary support for families
with transgender children.
The West Bengal Government
has taken initiatives to upgrade status of the highly marginalized and
susceptible trans genders who are
lagging in the areas of education
and employment. The state has planned to include rehabilitation and welfare of
the transgender community, and sensitization and awareness programs involving
all stakeholders, including the police, to tackle the community’s medical
problems, educational facilities and security challenges. Recently, the Mamata
Banerjee government has taken a step further to improve the social and economic
conditions of its transgender community. It has asked the Kolkata Police to
empower the community by recruiting trans genders into the Civic Police
Volunteer Force (CPVC).
A new initiative
by the Kerala Government puts the state miles ahead of others in India in the
field of transgender rights, the government has employed trans genders in the
Kerala Metro, Health Minister –K.K.Shailaja has declared that all State-run Medical
Colleges and Hospitals will soon have clinics meant for transgender people.
Each human being
in this Universe is unique, and an essential part of Nature. It is unfair to judge and discriminate people
on the basis of gender. Every transgender deserves equal opportunities and
facilities for a better life. Higher
education plays a vital role in
every aspects of our lives, therefore every transgender in our country should
be given opportunities to pursue higher education so that they are capable of leading their
lives independently and
they can also contribute to the society.