Hijra – Religion and Expressive Culture
Come early july has seen a whirlwind of human rights news: The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex relationship, racially billed protests and discussions on transgender privileges. Society is now more aware of people’s differences in opinion, whether it is their lifestyle choice or politics standing. However, some of these variations, which are believed to be radically different than the norm, have been around for thousands of years. Such is the situation of the hijras, the South Asian transsexual and transgender community in India, who’ve been open up about their self-identification for years and years.
The term hijra is trusted in South Asia, social workers and community activists encourage the public to use the socially conscious and more encompassing term hwaaja sira; this consists of persons who identify as transgender, transsexual, a cross-dresser, or eunuch. There are a variety of conditions used throughout India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and their various dialects that research these communities, but for uniformity purposes, these areas will be referred to here as hijras within the context of this article.
The annals of hijras dates back a large number of years, where a third sex is first mentioned-and they may be celebrated-in ancient Hindu texts like the “Mahabharata” and the “Kama Sutra.” In 1897, during the British guideline of India, hijras were considered as criminals. And, people of the isolated communities searched for solace in a guru or protective innovator (sometimes seen as a “mother number”) who can offer emotional or financial support. Hijras even developed their own secret vocabulary, Hijra Farsi, to protect their identities while still maintaining tight-knit communities. As time passes, members of the areas have been appointed elected market leaders in politics.
As with many transsexual and transgender people across the world, hijras will be the subject matter of extreme discrimination in employment, housing, health, education and many other basic individual rights-but developments are being made in gaining more human rights for the city of hijras. A 2014 ruling in the Supreme Courtroom of India declared a third gender would be recognized on all standard documentation for the transsexual, transgender, eunuch, and cross-dresser neighborhoods. This legal position aimed to allow equal access to education, healthcare, and employment.
The hijra community still faces low social standing in South Asia today. Quite often they must revert to sex work to make a living. Despite their public status, hijras are believed auspicious in present day India, where they are generally times asked to bless special occasions such as weddings and childbirths. If treated incorrectly, hijras are also thought to curse such functions.
Having a reputation for colorful saris, playful personalities, and brash singing and clapping, hijras make their existence known. Members of the communities are also standing up for noble causes beyond their own-for instance, in the below PSA for seatbelt safety in India.
Society’s opinions on the ostracized but solid communities of hijras vary greatly in Southern Asia and could possibly be polarizing: some believe they may be criminals while others believe these are a sign of good fortune, who deserve usage of basic human privileges. People will maintain their opinions so long as they are entitled to have them. But the hijra community’s long-standing self-identification for so many years has forced the world to give consideration, hopefully spotting them in a far more humanistic light.