Transgender in India.
“Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expressions or behavior doesn’t conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they are assigned at birth”, the American Psychological Association (APA) explains on its website. A person’s sex denotes his or her biological status of being male or female. The determination of a person’s sex depends on various physical characteristics, including chromosomes, reproductive anatomy and sex hormones. Gender, on the other hand, deals with behaviors, roles and activities typically associated with the different sexes. Transgender people may use specific categories to describe themselves, including transsexual, gender queer and cross dresser, according to GLAAD, an LGBT media advocacy organization. People who are transsexual feel that their sex doesn’t match their gender identity, and may take steps to better align their sex with their gender using hormones and surgery. Gender queer individuals don’t identify with either male or female descriptions, and instead feel that their gender falls somewhere along a continuum. People who cross-dress wear clothing that’s traditionally worn by people of a different gender. Cross-dressers are generally comfortable with their birth-sex, and this type of gender expression isn’t necessarily related to sexual desire or erotic activity, according to GLAAD. (GLAAD also notes that the term “transvestites” is considered derogatory.) Being transgender only speaks to gender identity and isn’t indicative of sexual orientation. Transgender people may be gay, straight, lesbian or bisexual, GLAAD stresses.
It is common misconceptions among South Asians that transgender are “only men who have feminine gender identity, adopt feminine gender roles and wear women’s clothing”. In reality, the community is significantly more diverse. Transgender people are known as Hijras in Hindi, also known as Chhakka in Kannada and Bombaiya Hindi, in Punjabi and Kojja in Telugu. The word “hijra” is an Urdu-Hindustani word derived from the Semitic Arabic root hjr in its sense of “leaving one’s tribe,” and has been borrowed into Hindi. The Indian usage has traditionally been translated into English as “eunuch” or “hermaphrodite”, where “the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition.” However, in general hijras are born with typically male physiology, only a few having been born with male intersex variations. Some Hijras undergo an initiation rite into the hijra community called nirwaan, which refers to the removal of penis, testicles and scrotum.
Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and Western non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of “third sex” or “third gender,” as neither man nor woman. Hijras have successfully gained this recognition in Bangladesh and are eligible for priority in education. In India, the Supreme Court in April 2014 recognized hijra and transgender people as a ‘third gender’ in law.
Objectives of the Study:
In this case study an attempt is made to study about the Transgender people in India and the state of transgender people in ancient India, laws related to them, coming out and pride parade by the LGBT community (recent happenings).
Transgender People in India:
Many forms of transgendered cultures used to exist throughout the world. However most of these cultures became extinct as Christian social mores spread and transgendered cultures were banned, stigmatized, or later, absorbed into modern gay-culture. In Indian society, however, still exists a third gender called Hijra that is distinctly different from the Western concept of transgender. The Hindu god Shiva, the supreme Lord, is sometimes described as hermaphrodite and Indian society sees the existence of a middle gender that combines the characteristics of both man and woman. Hijras are seen as neither man nor woman, and fulfill a socio-cultural role that is reserved only for them. The most well known role for Hijras is the performance of religious ceremonies at weddings and for new-born male babies to bring fertility and good luck. However, the breakneck speed of India’s Westernization and urbanization have meant less demand for the Hijras’ traditional role, creating a vicious cycle that has driven some Hijras to begging or prostitution, earning them disdain and a further loss of their traditional status.
Transgender People in Ancient India:
As is common with literature of ancient India, no proper documentation is available and the subject is such a way that no certain book or stories are available of their life or conditions. In such a case, we have to resort to myths, stories and whatever mention we can find in epics and scriptures. It is true that myths and stories do not give a clear picture as they are distorted but in this scenario, there is no other option when subject is taboo and common masses refrain to speak about it.
In ancient Indian texts transgender mean-‘men who have female nature’. This distinction is necessary as transgender alone can mean a variety of natures as mentioned before. Sometimes the line becomes blurry and it also means Homosexuality. In Khajuraho, there are sculptures depicting homosexual activities and Vatsyayana of 4th Century has written extensively about people of third gender in his Kama Sutra. Khajurajo and Vatsyayana fall under later period.
Earlier than that are Ramayana and Mahabharata where stories of third gender appear. According to one story, Ram while going for exile told ‘men and women’ to return from the border. People of third gender considered themselves neither to be men or women so they waited for Ram for 14 years on the border of Ajodhya. Upon returning, Ram discovered them and gave them a boon which said their (transgender) blessing would be sought upon at every auspicious ceremony. That is the reason blessings of transgender people is accepted and welcomed during marriage or naming ceremony.
Another story is from Mahabharata where Arjuna turned into a eunuch for 1 yr due to curse of an Urvashi. Another instance is of Bhishma being killed by Shikhandi who was a transgender man. Some transgender of North India do not consider Yaksha, Gandharva and Kubera belonging to either male or female sex.
The biggest and most important story is of Shiva and Vishnu. Shiva being Ardhanarishwar where he is half male and half female. This form has been existence since a very long time, when fertility was given more importance. Vishnu’s Mohini is supposed to be transsexual whereas Shiva’s Ardhanarishwar is supposed to be hermaphrodite, a person who has both male and female sexual organs.
From these instances, we can say that people belonging to transgender definitely had a place in society and both the sections of the society lived in harmony. Till the medieval times, transgender people were respected and they were used for various factors. If we recall, Malik Kafur during the reign of Ala-Ud-Din Khilji became head of the army and he was a eunuch. I think the situation must have deteriorated with the coming of British who imposed their idea of right and wrong on Indians. With Criminal Tribal Act of 1871 and Amendment of the same in 1897, transgender were considered as criminals and were to be arrested on sight. This definitely must have changed the outlook of society towards them.
Laws and Rights related to Transgender in India:
India’s top court on 15th April, Tuesday, 2014 issued a landmark verdict relating to section 377 recognizing transgender rights as human rights, saying people can identify themselves as a third gender on official documents. The Supreme Court directed the federal and state governments to include transgender people in all welfare programs for the poor, including education, health care and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges. Previously, transgender Indians could only identify themselves as male or female in all official documents.
The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female. The court’s decision would apply to individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.
“The spirit of the [Indian] Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” the court said in its order. The Supreme Court specified its ruling would only apply to transgender people but not to gays, lesbians or bisexuals. The court also ordered the government to put in place public awareness campaigns to lessen the social stigma against transgender people. The court ruled that transgender people would have the same right to adopt children as other Indians. The court said any person who underwent surgery to change his or her sex would be entitled to be legally recognized as belonging to the gender of their choice. The apex court also ordered state governments to construct separate public toilets for transgender people and create health departments to take care of their medical problems.
Before this judgment the court proceedings on LGBT rights were like this
- In December 2002 Naz India filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to challenge IPC section 377 in the Delhi High Court. On 4 July 2008, gay activists fighting for decriminalization of consensual homosexuality at the Delhi High Court got a stimulus when the court opined that there was nothing unusual in holding a gay rally, something which is common outside India.
- On 2 July 2009, in the case of Naz Foundation v National Capital Territory of Delhi, the High Court of Delhi struck down much of S. 377 of the IPC as being unconstitutional. The Court held that to the extent S. 377 criminalised consensual non-vaginal sexual acts between adults, it violated an individual’s fundamental rights to equality before the law, freedom from discrimination and to life and personal liberty under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The High Court did not strike down S. 377 completely – it held the section was valid to the extent it related to non-consensual non-vaginal intercourse or to intercourse with minors – and it expressed the hope that Parliament would soon legislatively address the issue.
- On 11 December 2013, on appeal, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of Section 377 of the IPC, and stated that the Court was instead deferring to Indian legislators to provide the sought-after clarity. In its judgment the Supreme Court stated “We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The provisions of Section 377 IPC will continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors… Secondly, we clarify that our judgment will not result in the re-opening of criminal cases involving Section 377 IPC that have already attained finality.“
- On January 28, 2014 Supreme Court dismissed the review Petition filed by Central Government, NGO Naz Foundation and several others, against its December 11 verdict on Section 377 of IPC.
The Guru of Hijra and the Coming Out and Pride Parades:
Activist and celebrity transgender also known as the Guru of Hijra Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi was lucky to have found acceptance from her parents and yet feels the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment recognizing a “third gender” restored her dignity – and safeguarded that of future generations of the so called hijra or eunuch community in India.
Laxmi has served on the boards of several NGOs which conduct LGBT activist work. In 2002 she became president of the NGO DAI Welfare Society, the first registered and working organization for eunuchs in South Asia. Laxmi had never worked as a prostitute like other hijra girls. When she was young, she made a living by dancing in bars in Bombay and later as a choreographer in Bollywood. Laxmi’s “Students“(cheala) are not permitted to touch neither her head nor her hair, or walk ahead of her, and practically cannot do anything without her approval. Whoever crosses her must pay a large amount of money as punishment. Those who wouldn’t do so will be banned from the Community. Laxmi’s publicity also causes jealousy among the other communities, which occasionally leads to violence. When someone turns to her for help, she immediately responds positively even if she comes from another community. The past, there were 30 trans-genders in Bombay community but some returned to their villages and most of them died of AIDS. A large percentage of the hijra girls’ community already had HIV before they entered the community of Laxmi, but while they are in the community, they are committed to safe sex, although some are tempted by money and not use condoms and endanger their lives. With the help of the organization she founded (ASTITVA); Laxmi emphasizes to her community the importance of safe sex by using sex education workshops.
On 29 June 2008, five Indian cities (Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore and Pondicherry) celebrated gay pride parades. About 2,000 people turned out in these nationwide parades. Days after the 2 July 2009 Delhi High Court verdict legalizing homosexuality, Pink Pages, India’s first online LGBT magazine was released. On 16 April 2009, India’s first gay magazine Bombay Dost was re-launched by Celina Jaitley in Mumbai. On 28 June 2009, Delhi and Bangalore held their second gay pride parades, and Chennai – generally considered to be a very conservative city – held its first. Attendance at the pride parades has been increasing significantly since 2008, with an estimated participation of 13,500 people in Delhi and 1,500 people in Bangalore in 2010, and a similar attendance of over 3,000 in Mumbai in 2011. Mumbai has one of its biggest pride events – Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival which was first held in 2010 in April and the next year from May 25–29, 2011. It is the first queer film festival that is held in a mainstream multiplex theatre and screens LGBT films from all over the world. It has been recognized by Inter-pride as a pride event in India. Madurai celebrated city’s first LGBTQ Rainbow festival on 29-07-2012.
Most transgender live at the margins of society with very low status; the very word “hijra” is sometimes used in a derogatory manner. Few employment opportunities are available to transgender. Many get their income from extortion(forced payment by disrupting work/life using demonstration and interference), performing at ceremonies (toli), begging (dheengna), orsex work (‘raarha’)—an occupation of eunuchs also recorded in pre-modern times. Violence against hijras, especially hijra sex workers, is often brutal, and occurs in public spaces, police stations, prisons, and their homes. As with transgender people in most of the world, they face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law, and any bureaucracy that is unable to place them into male or female gender categories.
Though the constitution of India declares right to equality, right to freedom and expression but somewhere it is lacking behind as we have seen that the transgender community till now are not getting their identity as they should get according to the Indian constitution. They are being ignored by the general people or we can say by the straight people. From the ancient times the transgender community is found in India but it is very sad that today also they are fighting for their survival.
It is very important for the people to broaden their mind set to accept the transgender as well as the bisexual people in the society and to help them living a better life, to get higher education and also it’s the time to stop harassing them, time to stop commenting on their life and on lifestyle. The Supreme Court has also given their judgment on the transgender people and accepted them as normal human being. So as a normal human being they shouldn’t be ignored by the other people. Moreover there should be schools, colleges for the transgender community. The Supreme Court has given their judgment but the fulfillment of the same depends upon the other people, how they treat the transgender people.