Last April the Indian Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement which now permits transgender people to legally identify themselves under a “third gender” option. In India there are an estimated two million transgender people who, until now, have been unable to obtain official government documents due to exclusion from the legal system. In modern Indian society transgender people, who are known in India as Hijras, have often been forced away from mainstream society, leaving them to beg and perform at religious ceremonies for money.
Under this ruling Hijras are now allotted government jobs and seats in colleges as well as opening up the community to government welfare schemes. During the month of May, thousands of transgender people, transexuals, eunuchs and cross dressers congregate each each year in the Southern-Indian village of Koovagam, transgenders gather for the annual Koovagam festival. The 18 day festival celebrates transgenders in Hindu culture.
Freelance journalist Siri Bulusu went to the festival. She’ll tell us about what takes place and explain how the new law is impacting India’s transgender community.
(photo: A hijra in India. photo by Siri Bulusu)