“For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”- Bible (Matthew 19:12)
The third gender or Eunuchs are a part of history and religion. Commonly known as Hijras in India. They have found mention in many scriptures. In India, They are not defined based only on their sexuality, rather also on renouncing the sexuality.
Hijras are usually referred to as a low status community. Though theirs is a 4000 year old community yet they strive to make their place in the society. The usual hierarchy based on gender in India is Men, Women and then the third gender.
There is a certain amount of fear within Indians from the Hijras. There is a belief that whatever they bless or curse come true. This is a power provided to them for not being born as a man or woman. No good occasion like a marriage or child birth (a son) is incomplete without them paying a visit and charging a good amount for their blessing. Of course, there is always bargaining for the rate but the Hijras know their trade to well to budge and also after a while nobody argues too much for the fear of a curse.
But still for some reason, we fail to acknowledge them. The condition of Hijras has become bad to worse with time. They are unable to get good education and of course a job is out of question. Have you ever noticed, any admission form for School or College or any form for job interviews do not have an option for the third gender? Earlier the forms would just say male or female now they have other or I do not prefer to mention!
This leads the Hijras to take up begging and prostitution. The begging is mostly fulfilled by them feeding the fear of a curse that we Indians have. Prostitution is what makes me wonder. If they are in that trade that means they have people who visit them for sex. This to me defies the basic principle that Indian men like to put up. Where men loathe the idea of same sex marriages or if they see or meet a Hijra they get very uncomfortable, then how is it that behind closed doors they let go of their inhibitions or should I say masks. The whole idea makes me very uncomfortable.
I would agree that initially I was also one of those who were scared of them. I did not know who they are or why they are the way they are. The dressing up, the excessive makeup, talking loud and their distinctive clapping somehow did not paint a pleasant picture. So, When in Mumbai I got a chance to work with an NGO who worked closely with Hijras to rehabilitate them. I took time out to first understand them.
The issues that they face have made them a closed entity. They proudly display camaraderie and sisterhood.
We shall take a look at their lives in the next part! Till then take care Bye!