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IDENTITIES IN INDIA: HIJRAS

In the culture of the Indian subcontinent, the term Hijra, or third gender defines a community of trans women, assigned men at birth, who have adopted female clothing. In the Hindu imaginary, sexes are not clearly identified, deities change between female and male, so a third gender is sometimes recognised. For instance, India is the only country worldwide to recognise the gender “eunuch” in legal documents, aside from the traditional man and woman.

Despite the fact they are not registered in the census, it is believed to exist around 3 million hijras in India. Their social status has declined from antiquity until nowadays where they are stigmatised as prostitutes or beg in the streets. In the Mughal Empire, they served as counsellors or careers in Court and were socially recognised. The British Raj ostracised them.

Nowadays, they are discriminated against for their sexual identity, though they play an important role in popular culture. They are believed to bless or curse a celebration, as well as to get rid of an evil eye. They are feared in such a superstitious culture as India’s.

As part of the activism, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a well-known trans woman and activist, was involved in the famous Hindu festival, Kumbh Mela. There, she mentioned that the main objective is that “the Indian society respects the community, so the new generation within the community can live in a society that respects them”, obtaining “education, as much as a political presence”.

This documentary film might help better understand the problems this community faceshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O3gqFvhIiU

Translated by: Crespo Gómez, Ana María

This initiative is organized by Inserta Andalucía and the University of Granada, thanks to the funding provided by the Consejería de Igualdad, Políticas Sociales y Conciliación, and the Project «Educación Transversal para la Diversidad Afectivo-Sexual, Corporal y de Género» (code 419) of Plan FIDO UGR 2018-2020.

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