The ‘Third Gender’

Transgenders in India
Transgenders in India
Daniel LofredoRota | Licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

The labels placed on a transgender in India fall into a broad spectrum, and so do the experiences of these people. Through the prism of time, the position of transgenders has descended from deification to ostracization. Recognized recently as the ‘third gender’, the community continues to live on the fringes of Indian society. The Constitution guarantees every individual a life of dignity and liberty. But the transgender lives are devoid of this protection. "The transgenders live a life of discrimination, violence and often penury”, says Dona John, Program Manager at the Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), who is working with our partner, the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) on accentuating the public discourse on transgender inclusion and legal redressal mechanisms available to the community.

CLPR developed India's first curriculum for law students at the National Law School of India in Bangalore. The course has been introduced as a four week elective graduate course titled “Transgender Identity and the Law in India” and covers core themes of transgender identity, transgenders and the Indian Constitution, equality and non-discrimination, right to health, marriage and family. The course will now be taught at other Indian universities also.

Recent judicial and legislative developments are small steps towards improving the plight of transgenders. However, the real need calls for a change in the mind set of society and inclusion of the community into mainstreams of social, political and economic life. Living on the fringes of society, their right to identity, livelihood and entitlement to universal services is based on the whims of “an apathetic state administration”, opines Mrs. John. While the judiciary and the administration have made visible efforts to demarginalize the transgender community, the implementation gap in law is most often the cause for deprivation of individual rights in India, Mrs. John states.

“Civil society plays a crucial role in breaking the taboos”, says Mrs. John. “Large scale sensitization needs to happen starting from the school level to see transgenders not as an aberration, but an integral component of societal life”, she writes in  her recent report titled “Living a Life of Exclusion - Being a Transgender in Modern India”.