Despite much progress in the field of social life, transgender community is the most misunderstood community. With decline in their status and objectification of their body, their marginalisation has increased
God’s creations are incredible, and in that human beings are the most magnificent. They may be male, female or intersex. Intersex people are those who have sexual characteristics of both females and males. People whose gender identity is different from the one assigned to them at birth are transgenders. In the Vedas and Puranas, transgenders had a divine status. Ancient scriptures talk about Trithiya prakrithy or queer gender. For instance, the Ardhanarishvara is a composite androgynous form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. In the Shivapurana, it is said that Brahama created male beings and instructed them in turn to create others, but they were unable to do so. When Shiva appeared before him in an androgynous form, Brahma realised have omission and created females. Hindu epics has so many examples where deities are changing genders and manifesting themselves as different genders at different times. In Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu takes the form of the enchantress, Mohini, during the samudra manthan. In the Mahabharata, Krishna took the female form, Mohini, in order to fulfil the wish to experience marital bliss of Aravan, son of Arjun. Now, also the transgenders in Tamil Nadu who are known as Aravanis celebrate 18 days festival based on the the marriage of Aravan and Mohini, her widowhood and mourning. Ila, an androgyny deity, is another example of transgenders in Hindu mythology. All these examples show that the transgenders enjoyed a descent status in ancient Bharat.
During the Mughal period, the status of transgenders suffered a climbdown. They were employed as tax collectors, guards for the palaces, kings and queens. After conquering kingdoms, Mughal commanders used to arrest the male members of rival royal families and castrated them by mutilating their sexual organs. Further, they were then gifted to their masters. Due to their physical strength, they used to accompany royal family members and played a role of their conscience keepers. Since they were always close to power centres they are mispresented in history as enjoying high social status. But the truth is that their status slipped from divinity to sub-subservience.
The British period proved to be the dark days for trangenders in Bharat because their civil rights were dismissed. In 1871, the colonial power introduced the Criminal Tribes Act (CTC). It required registration and control of eunuchs
The British period proved to be the dark days for trangenders in Bharat because their civil rights were dismissed. In 1871, the colonial power introduced the Criminal Tribes Act (CTC). It required registration and control of eunuchs. They were looked at with suspicion of kidnapping, castration and sodomy. Under the CTC, wearing female clothing was a punishable offence for men. According to this law, “any eunuch … who appears, dressed or ornamented like a woman, in a public street or place, or in any other place, with the intention of being seen from a public street or place, or who dances or plays music, or takes part in any public exhibition” could be sentenced to up to two years of imprisonment plus a fine. Moreover, the CTC criminalised “all persons of the male sex who admit themselves or on medical inspection clearly appear to be impotent”. The British described transgenders as cross- dressers, beggars and prostitutes practising unnatural sex. The officials began considering them as “ungovernable” and portrayed as people who were “addicted to sex with men”. Thus the colonial law deprived transgenders of their primary source of income and any kind of rights. It pushed them further into poverty and social exclusion. After Independence, the situation continues to be same. Society looks down upon them as immoral and criminal. There is a suspicion that they indulge in kidnapping of young children. The truth is that due to the stigma and rejection by society, they end up as beggars and prostitutes.
It is estimated that the population of transgenders in Bharat is about 4.87 lakh (0.04 per cent of the total population). The census did not recognise them as a separate gender for years. Hence the actual number will be four to five times more than the declared. But they are one of the most marginalised communities in the country today. Therefore, a mechanism should be developed for ensuring their representation in Parliament which is highly required for empowering them. We should be encourage transgenders to declare their gender status voluntarily. This will go a long way in empowering them.