India’s highest court has ruled that transgender individuals should be allowed to designate themselves in a third gender category other than male or female in a historic legal ruling today.
Indian culture has traditionally recognized transgender individuals as ‘hijras’ and many have traditionally viewed themselves as a third gender separate to male or female.
The Supreme Court of India has instructed the Indian Government to allow transgender Indians to register as such in official documents and also to recognize them as a class of people who are economically and socially discriminated against so that they are given preferential treatment when seeking work and education.
The Supreme Court also instructed the government to put in place public awareness campaigns to lessen social stigma against transgender Indians, and to provide designated bathrooms for them.
The court also found that if a person undergoes surgery to change his or her sex then they are entitled to be legally recognized as the gender they have transitioned to.
Transgender Indians have also been given the same rights to adoption as other Indians by the ruling.
The case was brought before the court by Laxmi Tripathi who was quoted by ANI News as saying, ‘I am very happy, today we have been given same rights as men and women.’
It was an unexpected ruling as the same court struck down the decriminalization of homosexuality in India last year by the Delhi High Court.
Bangladesh and Nepal have also extended third gender categories to hijra people but the Indian ruling is believed to be move expansive in terms of their legal recognition.