In the culture of the Indian subcontinent, a “hijra” is considered to be a member of “the third gender” who is neither a man nor a woman. Usually, they live at the margins of society with a very low status. And sometimes, the word “hijra”, which is used to refer to them, is used in a very derogatory way too. Hardly any employment opportunities are available to them. So they get their income from performing at ceremonies, begging and from procuring, pimping or prostitution- some of the occupations of eunuchs as recorded in the contemporary society.
Despite of being humans like others sometimes, they are even subjected to violence (especially hijra sex workers) which is often terribly brutal and occurs in public places, police stations, prisons and even in their homes. They seem to be fated to face Into ‘T’RANSITION
an extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law and all those bureaucracies that fail to place them into male or female gender categories.
So to voice their plight when faced with health concerns and discriminations, many modern “hijras” have become politically active and have also formed organizations like “All-India Eunuchs’ Welfare Association (1993–94)”, “Dai Welfare Society (mutual aid society formed in 1999, Mumbai)”, “Hijra Kalyan Sabha”, etc .
In fact, in some of the rarest cases, they have also been elected to very high political positions. For example, Shabnam Mausi was the first hijra of India to become an MLA in 1999 (as an independent candidate) just five years after hijras were allowed to cast their vote. Another hijra, Kamla Jaan, was elected as the mayor of Katni (a district in Madhya Pradesh). Another hijra- Meenabai became the president of the Sehora town municipality- the oldest civic body of Madhya Pradesh. In 2005, a twenty-four-year-old hijra- Sonia Ajmeri ran for state assembly elections on an independent ticket to represent a population of around forty thousand eunuchs in Gujarat. On July 21, 2009, the then Chief Election Commissioner of India- Shri Naveen Chawla declared that the hijra community will be issued voter identity cards with T (Transgender) mentioned in their gender column. It was the result of those protests which were staged by the hijra community which was demanding to be recognised as a separate gender.
The book Eunuchs in Politicsor Politics in Eunuchs? presents a factual account of the extent, nature, causes and consequences of the political overtones of the subordinated and marginalised eunuch community and their efforts to occupy a lofty and honourable position in society. The study also identifies several sociological issues of the eunuch community that paved the way for their emergence in state and local politics. The author have used various caricatures and cartoons that grasps the sensitivity and essence of the research. The book presents a new perspective of the community, how their emergence threatened the mainstream politicians, making them insecure. The book also covers the legal mess through which the community is denied the right to choose their own path. Overall, this book incorporates the results of a Research project funded by UGC and completed by Ayub Khan, the author of the book. In a nutshell, this book is an amazing read, which gives insights into this forbidden community’s life.
By Nilabh Krishna