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Hijras- India's Third Gender

The transgender group in India, claiming to be neither men nor women


The word 'transgender' refers to a person whose gender identity does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. The transgender community, often referred to as the third gender, has been part of India's cultural and religious history for centuries. While the third gender has its own subgroups, the most commonly seen in India are Hijras. They are often born males, but look and dress in traditionally feminine ways.


Often dressed in glittering sarees, with a heavy makeup and a bindi on the forehead, you can spot the Hijras on the roads clapping and singing while knocking on car windows and begging. Whether it is at the traffic signals of Mumbai or on the streets of the CP in Delhi, one can easily spot the Hijras. In recent years, the Hijra community has been forced to beg to make its ends meet, but before that, they held an important place in society.


Hijras in hindu mythology and society


While leaving for his exile from Ayodhya, Lord Rama asked his disciples to leave, "Men and women, please wipe your tears and go away." The disciples left, but still a group of people who were neither men nor women, stayed at the edge of the forest. It is said that these people waited for Lord Rama's return for 14 years at the same place, earning a special place in Hindu Mythology.


According to ancient myths, the hijras were bestowed with special powers that brought luck and fertility to the ones they blessed, and misfortune to the ones they cursed. Due to these myths, the hijras were invited to sing and dance in auspicious events, such as marriage and childbirth. However, the special blessing and cursing powers of the hijras have now been forgotten, and people tend to hush them away or fear them. Their diminishing cultural significance in India has led them to be excluded, both socially and economically. They have become targets for exploitation and sex trade.




Crimes against the hijra community


According to stats, only 1% of the Hijras are born so, while the rest of them either pretend to be a Hijra or have been forced into homosexuality after abduction leading cruel and dangerous castrations. These castrations are controlled by a hijra mafia working secretly throughout the country. The mafia works through a network of hijra mandis, where a newly castrated hijra is auctioned to the highest bidder.


Apart from the hijra mafia, hijras abandoned at a young age are forced into prostitution. It is common to spot hijras dressed in dark glittering sarees, chipped nail polish, cheap jewelry, and open hair alongside railway tracks in Mumbai, waiting for their customers. Many of these hijra sex workers are managed by a guru, who takes most of their earnings. Younger hijras look up on the gurus for guidance and survival.


Hijras, who were treated with respect, are now considered to be freaks. They were made fun of, harassed, and even assaulted. They fight among themselves for territory for begging and prostitution in groups. The members of each group navigated all the discrimination put towards them, like families. Families remain close to each other, sharing the same pain and emotions.


Trans positive counseling


The plethora of issues faced by Hijras, ranging from gender dysphoria to being victims of bullying and discrimination, often go undressed due to the stigma attached to the community. In times like this, practices such as trans-positive counseling acknowledge and counters the oppressive contexts in which Hijra clients frequently receive health and mental health care.


The Hijra community also has the right to access practitioners with sensitive and compassionate attitudes to support them. A counselor can play an important role in building a positive environment for a hijra. Counseling should be gender-inclusive. We need to understand that counseling is a path to help hijras deal with the experiences that they go through and not a treatment for their sexuality. It is also important that their families and people around them be counseled about the issues that the hijra community faces so that they can help the community and motivate them to live their lives with their heads held up high. Society also needs to remember the cultural significance that the hijra community holds in India and stands up against any crime or discrimination thrown at the community.



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