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India third gender ruling: Transgender citizens in India score major victory

The recent India third gender ruling means that the country's transgender community can now identify themselves as belonging to a neutral gender category — one that is neither male or female, yesterday's report from NPR stated. "I am neither man nor am I a woman....I am a transsexual. This is a great day for people like me in India for we can now be accepted for who we are," said Kiran, a human rights activist, after hearing the news of the India third gender ruling. On Tuesday, The Supreme Court of India ruled that people who identify as belonging to the "third gender" will not be required to submit medical evidence of their sexuality to be recognized by the government as a member of that gender, CNN said, citing a statement from Tripti Tandon, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs.

India's third gender ruling is a measure intended to end discrimination against transsexuals and transgenders in a country in which, however, homosexual relations are illegal. "Transgenders are citizens of this country ... and recognition as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," said the verdict.

The Indian judiciary has also asked the Supreme Court to consider transsexuals as a "socially and economically underdeveloped" group, as it does with other minorities. "Article 15 of India's Constitution guarantees that no state can discriminate against citizens on the basis of religion, caste, race or sex," NPR wrote.

The decision by the two-judge bench applies to those in India that are considered to be hijras, which is a term used to refer to individuals in South Asia who are transsexual or transgender. The court stated, "transgender is generally described as an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to their biological sex."

This group of people has suffered great discrimination in some Asian countries and many have no other choice but to engage in prostitution and be rejected by society and their families. There are no official estimates of how many hijras there are in India. Precisely, this has been one of the problems when it comes to organizing and demanding their rights, activists agree. Some estimates say there are between one and two million hijras in India.

The third gender ruling of the Supreme Court of India has been something of a surprise because just last Dec., the high court reinstated the colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to The Washington Post. Although this measure has been used in very few cases, the gay community says it is a weapon used by the police to harass them. Rarely a person is imprisoned for homosexual relations, but this law was used to extort gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Do you agree with the India third gender ruling? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.