The hijra are “untouchable”.
They are a part of Indian life but they are feared and reviled. Their open status as the “third gender” has them discriminated particularly by the government of India whose laws are based on British Common Law. The old laws of buggery/sodomy, anti-Gay laws and the like were widely used to oppress them by cops with naught better to do with their time. But things are changing and with greater acceptance and voice comes greater power. And part of that is to be recognised.
They are a widely accepted part of “Indian Culture” but they are not liked. They have restricted facilities to education and they are among the group with the least access to healthcare, education and political power.
The National Legal Services Authority is seeking to recognise the hijra as a third gender with equal protection and rights as anyone falling in male or female categories. The NALSA is also planning to offer free legal services to them and free arbitration for legal disptes.
Article 15 of the Indian constitution prevents any discrimination on the basis of gender or sex and the hijra’s declaration as a third gender would in effect stymie the legal black hole in which they exist. While it won’t stop the most blatant of anti-hijra sentiment it will stop legal support for such.
It is hoped that this bill will pass through and signs look quite favourable. India will be joining places like the UK and France in declaring the Hijra as equal citizens rather than the second class citizens that they are currently treated like as in many parts of the world.