Hijra (South Asia)

Third gender of South Asian cultures / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In the Indian subcontinent, hijra[n 2] are eunuchs, intersex people, or transgender people who live in communities that follow a kinship system known as guru-chela system.[2][3][4][5] Also known as aravani, aruvani, and jogappa,[6] the hijra community in India prefer to call themselves "kinnar", referring to the mythological beings that excel at song and dance.[citation needed] In Pakistan, they are known as khawaja sira, the equivalent of transgender in the Urdu language.[7]

Quick facts: Pronunciation, Meaning, Classification, Other...
A group of Hijra in Bangladesh
A group of Hijra in Bangladesh
MeaningUmbrella term for people who are trans women, intersex, and/or eunuchs
ClassificationGender identity
Other terms
SynonymsAravani, Jagappa, Kinnar, Khawaja Sira, Khadra, Moorat
Associated termsBakla, Khanith, Kothi, Kathoey, Third gender, Trans woman, Akava'ine, Muxe
CultureSouth Asian
Regions with significant populations
Indian subcontinent
Flag_of_India.svg India10 million+[1][n 1]
Flag_of_Pakistan.svg Pakistan250,000+ (2017)[citation needed]
Flag_of_Bangladesh.svg Bangladesh12,000+ (2022)
Legal information
RecognitionYes (India, Bangladesh & Pakistan)

Hijras are officially recognised as a third gender throughout countries in the Indian subcontinent,[8][9][10] being considered neither completely male nor female. Hijras identity evolved during the Delhi Sultanate (1226-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526-1707).[11][12]

Many hijras today live in well-defined and organised all-hijra communities, led by a guru.[4] These communities have consisted over generations of those who are in abject poverty or who have been rejected by or fled their family of origin.[13] Many work as sex workers.[14]

The word hijra is a Hindustani word.[15] It has traditionally been translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite", where "the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition".[16] However, in general hijras have been born male, with only a few having been born with intersex variations.[17] Some hijras undergo an initiation rite into the hijra community called nirvaan, which involves the removal of the penis, scrotum and testicles.[14]

Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and non-government organizations have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of "third sex" or "third gender", as neither man nor woman.[18] Hijras have successfully gained this recognition in Bangladesh and are eligible for priority in education and certain kinds of low paid jobs.[19][20] In India, the Supreme Court in April 2014 recognised hijras, transgender people, eunuchs, and intersex people as a "third gender" in law.[2][21][22] Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have all legally accepted the existence of a third gender, with India, Pakistan and Nepal including an option for them on passports and certain official documents.[23]