In a surprising ruling by the Supreme Court of India, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan recognized transgender as a third gender. Despite the term “third gender” sounding somewhat pejorative, India has accorded all the rights that are guaranteed in the Indian Constitution to hijra’s, a term used to describe transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs and transvestites. Hijra’s, as in many countries, have continually lived on the outskirts of Indian society; being subjected to abhorrent treatment and not afforded the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings. This has prevented them from fulfilling their lives as they see fit and are left with little opportunity for success in their home, business, and social lives. Hopefully, with this ruling, the lives of many hijra will change for the better.
The Court’s decision begins by outlining the testimony of a few hijra’s who have experienced hardship and oppression because of their gender identity. The Court saw this as representative of many of the hijra’s experience in Indian and sought to rectify this horrible situation. They then outline hijra’s presence in Indian history and the acclaim they had received amongst gods and men. The further look to international law in determining a need for respect for all humans and their basic human rights and go on to proclaim, “Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom[.]” The court eventually holds that the law must provide an equal opportunity to every citizen to grown, which will allow hijra’s to have access to the quota system, and guarantees them jobs and education and the respect they deserve as human beings.
While legal reform will begin the process of assimilation into society of hijra’s, social reform is just as big of a hurdle to overcome. Hijra’s may still be looked on as outcasts and disparaged for their lifestyle and may not get the proper respect they deserve in society. Hopefully, new laws that prohibit discrimination, reform of the IPC (that criminalizes homosexual sexual relations), and sanctions to offenders will spur Indian society into changing for the better. Furthermore, hopefully other countries (looking at you United States), will seek to accommodate people that don’t identify as male or female, or even by their own biological sex.
Do you believe that other countries will follow suit after this decision? How do you think India will respond to this ruling? How has the world helped further the LGBTQIA agenda in allowing people to identify as they see fit? What do you see as the biggest hurdle in overcoming oppression in the transgender community?