Hijra for translations, see [n 1] is a term used in South Asia — particularly in India and Pakistan — to refer to trans women male-to-female transgender individuals. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, the hijras are officially recognized as third gender by the government, being neither completely male nor female. In India also, transgender people have been given the status of third gender and are protected as per the law despite the social ostracism.
Hijras have a recorded history in the Indian subcontinent from antiquity onwards as suggested by the Kama Sutra period. This history features a number of well-known roles within subcontinental cultures, part gender-liminal, part spiritual and part survival. In South Asia, many hijras live in well-defined and organised all-hijra communities, led by a guru. The word "hijra" is an Urdu word derived from the Semitic Arabic root hjr in its sense of "leaving one's tribe," and has been borrowed into Hindi.
The Indian usage has traditionally been translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite," where "the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition. Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and Western non-government organizations NGOs have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of "third sex" or "third gender," as neither man nor woman.
Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have all legally recognized the existence of a third gender, including on passports and other official documents. This term is generally considered derogatory in Urdu and the word Khwaja Sara is used instead. A number of terms across the culturally and linguistically diverse Indian subcontinent represent similar sex or gender categories.
While these are rough synonyms, they may be better understood as separate identities due to regional cultural differences. In South India, the goddess Renuka is believed to have the power to change one's sex. Male devotees in female clothing are known as Jogappa. They perform similar roles to hijra, such as dancing and singing at birth ceremonies and weddings.
The word kothi or koti is common across India, similar to the Kathoey of Thailand, although kothis are often distinguished from hijras. Kothis are regarded as feminine men or boys who take a feminine role in sex with men, but do not live in the kind of intentional communities that hijras usually live in. Additionally, not all kothis have undergone initiation rites or the body modification steps to become a hijra.
Hijra used to be translated in English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite," although LGBT historians or human rights activists have sought to include them as being transgender. These identities have no exact match in the modern Western taxonomy of gender and sexual orientation, and challenge Western ideas of sex and gender. In India, some Hijras do not define themselves by specific sexual orientation, but rather by renouncing sexuality altogether.
Sexual energy is transformed into sacred powers. However, these notions can come in conflict with the practical, which is that hijras are often employed as prostitutes. While kothis are usually distinguished from hijras as a separate gender identity, they often dress as women and act in a feminine manner in public spaces, even using feminine language to refer to themselves and each other. The usual partners of hijras and kothis are men who consider themselves heterosexual as they are the ones who penetrate.
Some hijras may form relationships with men and even marry, although their marriage is not usually recognized by law or religion. Hijras and kothis often have a name for these masculine sexual or romantic partners; for example, panthi in Bangladesh, giriya in Delhi or sridhar in Cochin.
Most hijras live at the margins of society with very low status; the very word "hijra" is sometimes used in a derogatory manner. The Indian lawyer and author Rajesh Talwar has written a book highlighting the human rights abuses suffered by the community titled 'The Third Sex and Human Rights.
Violence against hijras, especially hijra sex workers, is often brutal, and occurs in public spaces, police stations, prisons, and their homes. In , HIV prevalence was Rehman, the director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. In a study of Bangladeshi hijras, participants reported not being allowed to seek healthcare at the private chambers of doctors, and experiencing abuse if they go to government hospitals. Beginning in , hijras were engaged to accompany Patna city revenue officials to collect unpaid taxes, receiving a 4-percent commission.
Since India's Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexual sex on 13 December , there has been a sharp increase in the physical, psychological and sexual violence against the transgender community by the Indian Police Service, nor are they investigating even when sexual assault against them is reported. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India ruled that transgender people should be treated as a third category of gender or as a socially and economically "backward" class entitled to proportional access and representation in education and jobs.
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November Learn how and when to remove this template message. The hijra community due to its peculiar place in sub-continental society which entailed marginalisation yet royal privileges developed a secret language known as Hijra Farsi. The language has a sentence structure loosely based on Urdu and a unique vocabulary of at least a thousand words. Beyond the Urdu-Hindi speaking areas of subcontinent the vocabulary is still used by the hijra community within their own native languages. In , transgender people in Pakistan were given their first opportunity to stand for election.
The governments of both India  and Pakistan  have recognized hijras as a "third sex", thus granting them the basic civil rights of every citizen.
In India, hijras now have the option to identify as a eunuch "E" on passports and on certain government documents. They are not, however, fully accommodated; in order to vote, for example, citizens must identify as either male or female. There is also further discrimination from the government. In the general election, India's election committee denied three hijras candidature unless they identified themselves as either male or female. Seldom, our society realises or cares to realise the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex.
Our society often ridicules and abuses the Transgender community and in public places like railway stations, bus stands, schools, workplaces, malls, theatres, hospitals, they are sidelined and treated as untouchables, forgetting the fact that the moral failure lies in the society's unwillingness to contain or embrace different gender identities and expressions, a mindset which we have to change.
Justice Radhakrishnan said that transgender people should be treated consistently with other minorities under the law, enabling them to access jobs, healthcare and education. Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as "third gender" for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the Parliament and the State Legislature.
Transgender persons' right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld and the Centre and State Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender. The ancient Kama Sutra mentions the performance of fellatio by feminine people of a third sex tritiya prakriti. During the era of the British Raj, authorities attempted to eradicate hijras, whom they saw as "a breach of public decency. Also during British rule in India they were placed under the Criminal Tribes Act and labelled a "criminal tribe," hence subjected to compulsory registration, strict monitoring and stigmatized for a long time; after independence however they were denotified in , though the centuries-old stigma continues.
The Indian transgender hijras or Aravanis ritually marry the Hindu god Aravan and then mourn his ritual death seen in an day festival in Koovagam, India. Many practice a form of syncretism that draws on multiple religions; seeing themselves to be neither men nor women, hijras practice rituals for both men and women. Hijras belong to a special caste. They are usually devotees of the mother goddess Bahuchara Mata, Lord Shiva, or both.
Bahuchara Mata is a Hindu goddess with two unrelated stories both associated with transgender behavior. One story is that she appeared in the avatar of a princess who castrated her husband because he would run in the woods and act like a woman rather than have sex with her. Another story is that a man tried to rape her, so she cursed him with impotence. When the man begged her forgiveness to have the curse removed, she relented only after he agreed to run in the woods and act like a woman. The primary temple to this goddess is located in Gujarat and it is a place of pilgrimage for hijras, who see Bahucahara Mata as a patroness.
Ardhanari has special significance as a patron of hijras, who identify with the gender ambiguity. In some versions of the Ramayana, when Rama leaves Ayodhya for his year exile, a crowd of his subjects follow him into the forest because of their devotion to him. Soon Rama notices this, and gathers them to tell them not to mourn, and that all the "men and women" of his kingdom should return to their places in Ayodhya.
Rama then leaves and has adventures for 14 years. When he returns to Ayodhya, he finds that the hijras, being neither men nor women, have not moved from the place where he gave his speech.
Impressed with their devotion, Rama grants hijras the boon to confer blessings on people during auspicious inaugural occasions like childbirth and weddings. This boon is the origin of badhai in which hijras sing, dance, and give blessings. Mahabharata includes an episode in which Arjun, a hero of the epic, is sent into an exile. There he assumes an identity of a eunuch-transvestite and performs rituals during weddings and childbirths that are now performed by hijras. In the Mahabharata, before the Kurukshetra War, Iravan offers his lifeblood to goddess Kali to ensure the victory of the Pandavas, and Kali agrees to grant him power.
On the night before the battle, Iravan expresses a desire to get married before he dies. No woman was willing to marry a man doomed to die in a few hours, so Arjuna as Brihinala marries him. In South India, hijras claim Iravan as their progenitor and call themselves "aravanis. They dress as women still retaining their masculine features and sing in praise of Lord Krishna,". In the ancient times, even religion has its own way of accepting these fringe communities.
The peculiar clap is one such". Each year in Tamil Nadu, during April and May, hijras celebrate an eighteen-day religious festival. The aravani temple is located in the village Koovagam in the Ulundurpet taluk in Villupuram district, and is devoted to the deity Koothandavar, who is identified with Aravan. During the festival, the aravanis reenact a story of the wedding of Lord Krishna and Lord Aravan, followed by Aravan's subsequent sacrifice. They then mourn Aravan's death through ritualistic dances and by breaking their bangles. Hijras from all over the country travel to this festival.
There is evidence that Indian hijras identifying as Muslim also incorporate aspects of Hinduism. Still, despite this syncretism, Reddy notes that a hijra does not practice Islam differently from other Muslims and argues that their syncretism does not make them any less Muslim.
Reddy also documents an example of how this syncretism manifests: in Hyderabad, India a group of Muslim converts were circumcised, something seen as the quintessential marker of male Muslim identity.
The film Common Gender relates the story of the Bangladesh hijra and their struggle for survival. Hijras have been portrayed on screen in Indian cinema since its inception, historically as comic relief. A notable turning point occurred in when real hijras appeared during a song-and-dance sequence in Kunwaara Baap "The Unmarried Father".
One of the first sympathetic hijra portrayals was in Mani Ratnam's Bombay Pooja Bhatt produced and also starred in the movie, with her father Mahesh Bhatt co-writing and directing. Deepa Mehta's Water features the hijra character "Gulabi" played by Raghubir Yadav , who has taken to introducing the downtrodden, outcast widows of Varanasi to prostitution.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the film generated much controversy. In the Tamil film Appu directed by Vasanth, a remake of the Hindi film Sadak, the antagonist is a brothel-owning hijra played by Prakash Raj.