Transgenders a separate class, Centre tells SC

In a significant statement, the Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the transgenders are treated as a recognised class in the country and are provided all the basic rights including right to vote and marry.

In an affidavit, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment pointed out how eunuchs were granted the status as “others” in different forms recognizing their position as distinct from male and female.

“The eunuchs are also eligible to be enrolled as electors for the election to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha. Under Article 325 of the Constitution, no person is ineligible for enrolment on the ground only of religion, race, caste, sex or any of them,” it said, adding that the people in the others category get identity cards as well.

The collection of data for population enumeration also included three categories – male, female and others, it added.

The ministry has also organised a meeting for Friday, since the subject matter in the petition was new and the problems faced by eunuchs were diversified in nature.

In its submission, the government, however, refused to recognize them as a separate or a backward class in order to provide benefits of reservation for jobs in public and private sectors.

“The existing schemes for OBCs do not specifically mention people belonging to transgender,” the ministry said.

It suggested that the transgenders approach the National Commission for Backward Classes for their inclusion under the OBC category.

The government was responding to a PIL by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) seeking an end to social, political and cultural ostracism of transgenders by granting them legal status of a “third and equal sex”.

With regard to the exact number of transgenders in the country, the ministry said the figure could not be ascertained as some of them may have put themselves under the male or female category during the census.

It also claimed under the Right to Education Act, all children under the age of 6 to 14 were provided with free education. On a plea for the sex reassignment and voice-modification surgery for them, the government said that all treatments were provided free of cost, except nominal charges.

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