Practice Question: Discuss the issues relating to the entitlement of transgender in Indian society. (10 Marks) (UPSC 2018)

Approach: Introduction; Briefly discuss about transgenders in India, List the challenges faced by them, Explain the reasons for their predicament, Suggest measures in brief; Conclusion



Transgender community comprises of Hijras, eunuchs, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc. Eunuchs have existed since 9th century BC. The word has roots in Greek and means “Keeper of the bed” castrated men were in popular demand to guard women quarters of royal households. The Vedas (1500 BC – 500 BC) describe individuals as belonging to one of three separate categories, according to one’s nature or prakrti. These are also spelled out in the Kama Sutra (c. 4th century AD) and elsewhere as pumsprakrtistri-prakrti (female-nature), and tritiya-prakrti (thirdnature). Various texts suggest that third sex individuals were well known in pre-modern India, and included male bodied or female-bodied people as well as intersexuals, and that they can often be recognized from childhood. A third sex is also discussed in ancient Hindu law, medicine, linguistics and astrology. 



Mughal period

Hijras played a famous role in the royal courts of the Islamic world, particularly in the Ottoman empires and the Mughal rule in the Medieval India. They rose to well-known positions as political advisors, administrators, generals as well as guardians of the harems. Hijras were consider clever, trustworthy and fiercely loyal and had free access to all spaces and sections of population, thereby playing a crucial role in the politics of empire building in the Mughal era.

British period

Through the onset of colonial rule from the 18th century onwards, the situation changed drastically. Accounts of early European travelers showed that they were repulsed by the sight of Hijras and could not comprehend why they were given so much respect in the royal courts and other institutions. In the second half of the 19th century, the British colonial administration vigorously sought to criminalize the hijra community and to deny them the civil rights. Hijras were considered to be separate caste or tribe in different parts of India by the colonial administration. The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, this included all hijra who were concerned in kidnapping and castrating children and dressed like women to dance in public places. The punishment for such activities was up to two years imprisonment and a fine or both. This pre-partition history influences the vulnerable circumstances of hijra in this contemporary world.



The transgender in India is possibly the most well known and popular third type of sex in the modern world. The Supreme Court declared for transgender as third gender. The third genders in India have emerged as a strong faction in the LGBT rights. In the contemporary time the Government of India introduced so many welfare policy and schemes such as, census, documentation, issuing of the citizenship ID Cards, issuing passports, social-economical development and constitutional safeguards for the transgender people. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a major initiative of the 11thFive Year Plan period which brought employment opportunities for transgender people. The
Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is the National Urban Livelihood Mission and Healthcare facilities. The social, economic, political transformation, Housing, legal measures, Police Reforms, legal and constitutional safeguards to prevent human rights violations of the transgender community and institutional mechanisms to address specific concerns of transgender people.



The term gender role refers to society’s concept of how men and women are expected to look and how they should behave. These roles are based on norms, or standards, created by society. In most cultures, masculine roles are usually associated with strength, aggression, and dominance, while feminine roles are usually associated with passivity, nurturing, and subordination. Role learning starts with socialization at birth. Even today, our society is quick to outfit male infants in blue and girls in pink, even applying these color-coded gender labels while a baby is in the womb.

Individuals who identify with the role that is the different from their biological sex are called transgender. Transgender is not the same as homosexual, and many homosexual males view both their sex and gender as male. Transgender males are males who have such a strong emotional and psychological connection to the feminine aspects of society that they identify their gender as female. The parallel connection to masculinity exists for transgender females. It is difficult to determine the prevalence of transgenderism in society.

Transgender individuals who attempt to alter their bodies through medical interventions such as surgery and hormonal therapy—so that their physical being is better aligned with gender identity—are called transsexuals. They may also be known as male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM). Not all transgender individuals choose to alter their bodies: many will maintain their original anatomy but may present themselves to society as another gender. 



The Criminalisation Act was repealed in 1952 and its legacy continues and many local laws reflected the prejudicial attitudes against certain tribes, including against Hijras.  The Karnataka Police Act was amended in 2012 to “provide for registration and surveillance of Hijras who indulged in kidnapping of children, unnatural offences and
offences of this nature” (Section 36A), in a similar vein to the Criminal Tribes Act,1871. Such laws will deteriorate the status of transgenders further.

Presently, there are political movements of lower-caste and other oppressed communities that are actively engaging with transgender people. This is a good beginning and voices are coming out from intersections of oppressed caste and gender identities. However, a lot more needs to be done to completely integrate the two. India has a long road ahead to gender justice, and the transgender community wants concerted efforts made to bring about legal reform so that transgender people are as free and empowered in their public and private lives as any other citizen of India.



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