Bangladesh will be officially recognizing hijra as a separate gender.
Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina announced the third possible gender identity at a cabinet meeting last night (11 November).
Hijra come under the umbrella of trans identity, but are more similar to intersex individuals.
The majority have a physiologically male body but they have a female identity. They may have also taken further surgical steps to feminize themselves.
But most importantly, they do not consider themselves women or gay.
Under the new Government policy, the rights will be secured, and will enable them to identify their gender as ‘hijra’ in all government documents including passports.
The measure is aimed at ending discrimination in education, health and housing.
‘There are at least 10,000 hijras in Bangladesh,’ Cabinet Secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said.
‘They are being denied their rights in various sectors including education, health and housing because of being a marginal group.’
He also said they will be referred as hijras in both English and Bangla.
‘Any other translations in English is misleading,’ he said.
But this is an important step for trans and intersex rights in the South Asian country, where people are banned from transitioning and being recognized as their true gender.
Omar Kuddus, a Bangladeshi LGBT activist, told GSN he feared the possible risks over identifying hijras as a separate gender.
‘In Bangladesh already, there is a lot of discrimination,’ he said.
‘Many hijras earn their living by people giving them money because they think they’re going to curse them otherwise. Many also work as sex workers.
‘By passing this policy, the Government could end up identifying these people as targets for persecution and discrimination.’
Homosexuality is still punishable in Bangladesh with jail time from 10 years to life.