SC recognises transgenders 'third gender'

SC recognises transgenders 'third gender'

In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Tuesday recognised transgenders as a third category, other than male or female, and directed the government to grant benefit of reservation to them on a par with socially and economically backward classes of citizens, removing the ''unimaginable'' discrimination faced by them.

A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and A K Sikri ordered all fundamental rights enjoyed by others in the Constitution be extended to transgenders, and the government should undertake social programmes for their welfare.

“Hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, should be treated as 'third gender' for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III (fundamental rights) of our Constitution and the laws made by the Parliament and the State Legislature. Transgender persons’ right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld, and the Centre and state governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity, like male, female or third gender,” said the bench.

The verdict came on a PIL filed by the National Legal Services Authority, which provides free legal aid to weaker and marginalised sections of society. It sought an end to the social, political and cultural ostracism of transgenders.

Passing the landmark 113-page judgment, the bench noted that fundamental rights, like equality, prohibition of discrimination, equal opportunity for employment and right to life and liberty, did not exclude “hijras/transgenders”. But laws like the Indian Penal Code and government schemes like the MGNREGA identified the paradigm of binary genders of male and female, based on biological sex, said the court.

“Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality, and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom, and no one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including SRS (sex reassignment surgery), sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity,” said the court.

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