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11/02/2015

More than a woman

To start with, what is s a hijra? Neither man nor woman or rather man and woman both... To put it simply, the Government (which recognized them officially in 2014 only) classifies them under the generic ‘third sex’. It thus gathers hermaphrodites (intersex, born with both female and male attributes), eunuchs, transgenders and cross dressers (even if technically, the majority of hijras get emasculated and if there are also transvestites who dress as women for fun and not because they are hijras). 

The tradition dates back to thousands of years when the genre was pretty popular in the Royal courts. They also have had the reputation of bringing luck (that’s why they always come to weddings and births to fetch their due in exchange for their blessings). And then the British landed and discovered this practice; disgusted, they ostracized them and they are often reduced to begging and prostitution. And the quotas that have been put in place last year don’t seem to help much...

If it is clearly not a panacea to be a hijra in today’s India, they have been having their small success at the stoplight and beggars, never short of creativity, have found new ways to exploit this windfall and to compete with them. This is how I came across men dressed as hijra – yes, men who dress up as men who dress up as women. But this is not all! I also met women who dress up as hijra –women who dress up as men who dress up as women. In short, the world has gone crazy!!

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