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What Makes Them Any Less of a Human?

The term Hijra has roots from the Arabic term “hjr” but has been borrowed by Hindi and it translates to “eunuch” or “hermaphrodite” however it is an umbrella term, often used to refer to the transgender, intersex, homosexual, asexual, eunuch, and hermaphrodite communities of South Asia, specifically India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Hijras have officially been given the status of the third gender and are not recognized as either male or female. In Gender and Genitals: Constructs of Sex and Gender, Hubbard also mentions how hijras are able to live as a third group rather than being categorized with the typical form of recognition for gender identity. Although Hubbard writes that there is acceptance of the third gender in non-western countries, there is also a downfall to this recognition. Life does not become any easier for them despite being recognized as a third gender. In this piece, I will be writing about the many struggles that are faced by the hijra community in South Asia.   

To live in any society, it is important for an individual to be socially accepted for who they are. Even though hijras have been legally recognized as a third gender for being “different” yet they have to live as an outcast regardless because the norm does not allow for them to be respected in ways that other members of society are able to do so. Hijras have been recognized as part of South Asian history since even before the Mughal empire. They held highly respectable positions during the Mughal empire serving “as caretakers of royal harems, masters of art and culture, and trusted as messengers, watchmen and guardians” (Chaudhry et al, 2553). However, sadly this is not the case anymore as many hijras have to struggle to make a decent living. Most of them are left with no choice but to take to the street for begging or prostitution. They have to take all sorts of risks with their bodies because their work requires for them to do so. This is because the governments may recognize them as a third gender but do not necessarily provide them with any resources and no one seems to respect them enough to give them a job. This is so disgusting and infuriating considering how there was once a time when they were able to hold a respectable position but due to colonization and other factors, they have to live as outcasts.   

Furthermore, it is so difficult for hijras to live in South Asian communities especially in Pakistan which is the Islamic Republic and often people use self-interpreted religious beliefs to excuse the hateful behavior towards the hijra community. On the surface, it may seem like hijras are unwanted by the men who proudly hate crime them but they are often the same men who want to sleep with hijras in secret. Although in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, hijras have officially been given the right to vote, the reality is that despite government recognition, they have not received any official ID cards. Nonetheless, voting is one of their last concerns as most of them struggle to even feed themselves. Hijras are not only deprived of employment but also education which is a basic need for anyone and it is also considered one of the basic human rights by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hijras like other people should be allowed to attend schools to attain education which could potentially create more opportunities for jobs in the future. It is so vile and inhumane to imagine that hijras like other people are not allowed to have a normal childhood. “If my fate were in my own hands then I would have been someone like my brothers, if it was in my hands then I’d be happy to be an animal just so I could live with my mother,” says Chahat, a member of the hijra community in Karachi, Pakistan.   

Marriage is also an obstacle; the truth is that they often have to leave their partners because of cultural principles. They are treated way worse than a human being should be and people blame them for their situations. It is so sickening and the only reason they are tolerated by society is because of the superstitious beliefs. The idea of being “different” is so hated by society that they don’t realize the extent of their actions and how it hurts people. Why can’t society acknowledge hijras as human beings just like everyone else? Just because they choose to lead a different lifestyle than what’s normalized, it should not an invitation for them to be seen as someone less worthy of respect. In every aspect of life, they are met with unbeatable obstacles.

 

 

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Footnotes

  1. Ghafoor Chaudhry, A., Ellahi Khan, S., Ahmed, A., & Khan, N. (2014). THE BEGGING HIJRAS OF ISLAMABAD IN THE AGE OF URBANIZATION: AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE. Science International, 26(5). 
  2. Hubbard, R. (1996). Gender and Genitals: Constructs of Sex and Gender. Social Text, 46/47, 157–165. https://doi.org/10.2307/466851 
  3.  JAIN, D., & RHOTEN, K. (2013). A Comparison of the Legal Rights of Gender Non-Conforming Persons in South Asia. Economic and Political Weekly, 48(52), 10–12. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24477885 
  4. Being Transgender In Pakistan: Inside Story (LGBTQ+ Documentary) | Real Stories 

2 thoughts on “What Makes Them Any Less of a Human?

  1. Mildred Pena (she/her)

    I loved reading your post. It is very upsetting how terrible some people are treated just because they are different. If we want the world to be a better place, we must change the way we think and accept everyone for who they are.

  2. Rukhshona Uktamova (she/her)

    Sadaf great job on organizing your thoughts and ideas. Starting off with explaining the term Hijra was a great start. You have already have your sources cited, I would suggest putting them in alphabetic order if you can. Very detailed, you have an argument and you support it many reasons! 🙂

    – Rukhshona Uktamova

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