Promising a better future, when one’s own future is bleak : Stop Calling them Hijra, its Khawaja Sara

Promising a better future, when one’s own future is bleak : Stop Calling them Hijra, its Khawaja Sara

Transgender people are those who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. Transgender people are sometimes called transsexual if they desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another.

The honorable Supreme Court India  recognised eunuchs as the third category of gender and directed the Union and state governments to grant them all facilities including voter identification cards, passports and driving licences.

The Union and state governments were also directed to take steps for bringing the community into the mainstream by providing adequate healthcare, education and employment.

A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and A K Sikri directed the government to take steps for granting recognition to transgender people as a separate third category of gender after male and female.

The bench also said they are the citizens of the country and have equal rights to education, healthcare and employment opportunities like other people belonging to male and female gender.

But don’t you think the very fact that our civil society is socially ostracising them marginalises them to a category of ‘others’.

When Lord Rama was exiled from Ayodhya and his entire kingdom began to follow him into the forest, he told his disciples: “Men and women, please wipe your tears and go away.”

So they left. Still, a group of people stayed behind, at the edge of the forest, because they were neither men nor women. They were khawaja sara (hijras), which in Urdu means something like eunuchs. Those people waited in the woods for 14 years until Lord Rama returned, this won them a special place in Hindu Mythology; in the past century this folktale about the hijras’ loyalty has become an important piece of their identity. Hijras figure prominently in India’s Muslim history as well, serving as the sexless watchdogs of Mughal harems.

Today khawaja sara, who include transgender and intersex people, are hard to miss. Dressed in glittering saris, their faces heavily coated in cheap makeup, they sashay through crowded intersections knocking on car windows with the edge of a coin and offering blessings. They dance at temples. They crash fancy weddings and birth ceremonies, singing bawdy songs and leaving with fistfuls of rupees. Strange they promise us a better future, when their own future is bleak.

India is the only country where the tradition of eunuchs is prevalent today. There are about 1 million of them, though their role in life has changed dramatically from that of royal servants, confidantes and friends.

Eunuchs, or hijras as they are called here, have become something to be feared. Nobody wants to be accosted by one of them – be nudged with their elbows, stroked on the cheek, taunted, cursed and flashed.

The community has a complex network system, which informs them of every happy event in the neighbourhood. No sooner has a baby been born in the family that a tinkle of ankle-bells herald the arrival of the khawaja sara. They sing and dance and create a commotion outside the house until the mother has allowed them to look at the baby. Once they have blessed the child they demand money in lieu of their good wishes. The inspection also carries an ulterior motive. On rare occasions when the baby is born a eunuch, the khawaja sara insist that the baby is given to them. Often, the families will comply to avoid humiliation in society, and the group will take the child away to their ghettoes to raise him as he should be : as one of their own.

They beg or are into prostitution to earn money. Clients who come to their quarters, are often heterosexual men who could not afford a female prostitute. The rest are closet gays for whom khawaja sara are the only source of release for pent-up frustrations.

Over a year back, the Apex court granted transgenders the `third gender’ status, as well as providing for their education and employment. It, however, remains a fact that they continue to be discriminated against and misbehaved with. Their employability is still in question and many are forced to beg for a living.

Unless a person is taught not to discriminate between people from the conventional genders and people from the third gender from a very basic level, there will be no change in the mindset of people and this problem will continue.

In recent years, events such as the khawaja sara beauty contest have begun to receive a lot of public attention, and a group of khawaja sara even had the opportunity to model in a professional fashion show, which was well-attended by India’s fashion circle and the media. This attempt at bringing them to the forefront of public consciousness was a huge success and the eunuchs who took part couldn’t get over the fact that they were sharing the stage with Miss Indias and the country’s leading models.

The need of the hour is to educate these transgender and eunuchs and improve their circumstances. Job opportunities must be made available to these eunuchs to ensure basic means of living. let them enjoy the privileges of being an Indian instead of marginalising them because of the sexual and gender identities. This community has already entered politics and won elections !!!!! Way to go…

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