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India's Supreme Court establishes third gender category

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-15

India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a landmark verdict creating a third gender category, paving the way for people to identify themselves as transgendered on official documents.

The Supreme Court directed federal and state governments to include transgendered people in all welfare programmes for the poor – including education, healthcare and jobs – to help them overcome systemic social and economic challenges.

Before Tuesday’s judgment, transgendered Indians had to identify themselves officially as male or female.

The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender, while specifically granting rights to those who choose to identify themselves as neither male nor female.

“All documents will now have a third category marked ‘transgender’. This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us. Today I am proud to be an Indian,” said Laxmi Tripathi, a transgender activist who had petitioned the court.

The court’s decision will apply to individuals who have the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or who present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

“The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” the court said in its ruling.

India’s Election Commission recently began allowing a third gender choice – that of “other” – on voter registration forms. The change was made in time for the national elections currently being held in phases that will continue through May 12.

Some 28,000 voters have since registered themselves under the third category. Overall, there are an estimated three million transgender people in India.

Many transgendered men in India earn a living by singing and dancing at weddings and births, but others must resort to begging or prostitution.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

 

Date created : 2014-04-15

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