State and societal discrimination
The Supreme Court of India issued a ruling on April 15, 2014, recognizing the three million and a half people in India who identify as transgender. It mandated that the government give jobs, education, and other benefits to transsexual people. Despite the ruling, not all government and private forms offer the option of a “T” resulting in a shortage of educational and career options for the hijras. Due to the lack of acknowledgment of the third gender, obtaining passports, ration cards, driving licenses, and the newly issued adhar card has proven challenging.
However, a few recent reforms in India and its subcontinent have provided a ray of hope for the group. The Rajya Sabha (India’s upper house of parliament) passed the Rights of Transgender Persons bill on April 24, 2015, ensuring transgender people’s reservation and social inclusion. Even the courts of Bangladesh, a neighboring country, have recently accepted the third gender. In Nepal, a public space added bathroom facilities for the third gender, a cubicle labeled “T,” among restrooms labeled “M” and “F.”
Ms. Manobi Bandhopadhay became the first transgender person to be appointed to the role of head of a college in West Bengal, India, earlier this year. Ms. Bandhopadhyay credited her victory to a Supreme Court decision from 2014.
Ms. Bandhopadhyay’s instance, on the other hand, may be the exception rather than the rule. Despite the Supreme Court’s recognition of the third gender, they remain India’s most stigmatized, ostracized, and disenfranchised community due to public ignorance and lack of understanding. The situation is so pitiful that hijras are mocked, ridiculed, and beaten instead of being viewed as human beings. The terror of people with ambiguous genitals or who behave in a gender incorrect manner is so strong that biological parents and siblings will occasionally abandon them in a hijra residence. Otherwise, such people’s treatment by family and friends is so heinous that they flee their homes to join the jamat.
The way society treats transgender people can be quite contradictory at times. They are treated with an ironic kind of reverence and are requested to perform for a badhai at weddings, childbirths, and other events because they believe their castration has gifted them with magical powers. However, those who deem the hijras to be auspicious on certain days may label them inauspicious at other times, depriving them of equal chances and rights in society.
Because of the widespread fear and hatred of the third gender, they are easy targets for public bullying and harassment. Lecherous men, whether clients or not, harass the hijras physically and sexually with a tremendous degree of contempt. In certain cases, they are savagely beaten for no apparent reason, sodomized, and made to give oral pleasure to male police officers.
Police officers abuse the IIPA, or Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, to make hijras villains by accusing them of heinous crimes such as kidnapping children, regardless of whether they are guilty or not. To say the least, the reports of harassment and detention torture of the imprisoned hijras are alarming.
The persecution against the hijra population is so heinous that they could theoretically employ Shylock’s argument from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” albeit with minor changes. “I am a hijra,” says the narrator. “Isn’t there a hijra eye? Isn’t a hijra the same as a male or female in terms of hands, organs, proportions, and passions; fed with the same food, harmed with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, cured by the same means, and warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer? Do we not bleed if you pierce us? Do we not laugh if you tickle us? Do we not perish if you poison us?”
- previous article: The Nirvan or Emasculation Ceremony: A Rite of Passage
- next article: Rising Against the Odds: Transgender Achievers
I have been a story writer since 1998 and have published many novels/novellas in both English and Japanese. Protagonists of the following fictions are Hijras – including ordinary males who turn into Hijras over the course of the story: