Bengal's Third Gender Elated at SC Verdict

Published: 15th April 2014 04:34 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2014 04:34 PM   |  A+A-

By IANS

West Bengal's transgender community was Tuesday elated over a Supreme Court ruling treating it as a third category and felt it brings the promise of social security and much-needed infrastructural support from the state and central governments.

The ruling also states that the third gender should be considered a socially and economically backward class and be entitled to job reservations.

Estimated at about 20,000, members of the third gender in the state feel this would ensure a decent livelihood, respectable source of income and a part of the national census.

Ranjita Sinha, a third gender and project director of the Association of Transgender/Hijra in Bengal, asserted the community's presence, particularly the eunuchs or hijras, in Indian mythology and culture, which makes their recognition as a third gender justifiable.

"The community has always been there...there are references in various epics and mythologies and the hijdas have been part of society always...so the recognition as a third gender is important. Now more and more people will come out and have a decent chance at eking out a living. This is a win for human rights," Sinha told IANS.

"We have been celebrating third gender day April 30 every year and this year it will be special because of the ruling. We will have access to basic healthcare facilities and infrsatructure on par with all citizens," she said.

Recognising transgenders as third category of gender, the apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice A.K. Sikri in their judgment directed the centre and the state governments to include them for reservation in jobs and education.

The court said that both the centre and the state governments would frame welfare schemes for them.

Many would go into sex work because of lack of options and now they will be entitled to education and jobs, said Santosh Kumar Giri, a third gender and secretary of the group Kolkata Rista.

"Political parties have never bothered to include us in their manifestos. But there is hope with with the SC ruling because welfare schemes and infrastructure support will be extended to us. We were respected earlier but now the respect is not there and with this judgement we will get that honour back," he told IANS.

"This will also create more awareness about the problems associated with the community," he said.

Two years ago, the Election Commission allowed enrollment of transgenders under the "Others" category in the electoral rolls and since then 28,314 transgenders have been registered across India with the Election Commission.

They will be voting for the first time as "Others" in the general elections.

However, there are certain "inconsistencies" which need "revision", according to gender-sexuality activist Pawan Dhall in context of the SC ruling upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, ruling that consensual gay sex between adults is illegal.

"Recognising them as a third gender means no one can point a finger at their sexual orientation whereas for lesbians and gays it is not the same. There is a contradiction in that. So the law has to be consistent with all and needs to be looked at," Dhall, a founder-member of the voluntary organisation Varta that promotes gender and sexual education in Kolkata, told IANS.

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