Hijra (also written as hija, hijira, hijda, hijada, hijara, or hijrah) is a third gender from the Indian subcontinent. The word hijra is a Hindustani word in is the most commonly known term outside of the Indian subcontinent. Although, the hijra community in India prefer to call themselves Kinnar or Kinner. In Pakistan, they are called Khawaja Sira (equivalent for transgender in Urdu) and the word hijra is generally considered derogatory. It was traditionally translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite", although LGBT historians or human rights activists have sought to include them as being transgender.
Hijra is considered completely male nor female. They are generally born male, though occasionally intersex, and have a feminine gender expression. Some hijras undergo an initiation rite which involves the removal of the penis, scrotum and testicles.
History[edit | edit source]
Hijras have a recorded history in the Indian subcontinent from from at least the Kama Sutra period. The ancient Kama Sutra mentions feminine people of a third sex (tritiya prakriti). Additionally travelers in the 1650s noted the presence of "Men and boys who dress like women" in the streets of Thatta, in modern Pakistan. At the time the presence of these individuals was taken to be a sign of the city's depravity.
During the era of the British Raj, authorities attempted to eradicate hijras, who they saw as "a breach of public decency." Also during British rule hijras were placed under the Criminal Tribes Act 1871 and labelled a "criminal tribe". They were subjected to compulsory registration, strict monitoring and stigmatized for a long time. After Indian independence they were denotified in 1952, though the centuries-old stigma continues.
Both the Indian and Pakistani government have recongnized hijras as a third gender, in 1994 and 2009 respectively. have recognized hijras as a "third sex", thus granting them the basic civil rights of citizens.
In India, hijras had the option to identify as a eunuch ("E") on passports and other government documents. They were not, however, fully accommodated; in order to vote or stand for election, for example, citizens must identify as either male or female. In April 2014 the Indian Supreme Court recognized hijras, transgender people, eunuchs, and intersex people as a 'third gender' and allow allowed an "other" choice on voter registration forms. As of a 2011 census 490,000 people in India identified themselves as third gender though the number of hijras is believed to be much higher.
Flag[edit | edit source]
The hijra flag was designed by the Tumblr user Samir (Tumblr username Divinehijra) on or before September 1, 2018. Pink and blue are for those who identify with binary genders as trans people. White is for those who are non-binary. Red represents the divinity Hijra are blessed with by Rama.
Resources[edit | edit source]
- Kama Sutra, 1883 Richard Burton translation, Chapter IX, Of the Auparishtaka or Mouth Congress.