Census skirts the 'third sex' count again

Census skirts the 'third sex' count again

A long wait. File photo

The third gender will have to wait to be “counted” in India.

The transgender people in the country have again missed a date in their struggle for a separate identity as the otherwise exhaustive Census 2011 does not provide them a separate gender option. In the comprehensive House Listing and Housing Census form spread over 35 columns, the gender option is confined to the usual male/female.

The long haul for the third gender or eunuchs will get accentuated by the fact that the current census exercise will lead to issuing of Unique Identity Cards for the first time in the country.

Ridiculed as social outcasts and harassed by the police, a unique identity card for the third gender would have helped them entertain a sense of empowerment. “As regards keeping the option for third gender in census form, no suggestion has come to this effect,” said P Rath, Assistant Director in the office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, while talking to Deccan Herald from New Delhi.

He said census forms were prepared after due deliberations with a cross-section of experts, technical advisory committee consisting of officials from nodal ministries, academicians and researchers and that the third gender option was not deliberated upon.

However, he said the option could be considered in the main data users’ census to be held in February 2011 if enough suggestions came to this effect.

“It is a grave injustice with our gender. Why should I exercise male or female option when I do not belong to either,” said a eunuch, requesting anonymity. Transgender people have been demanding rights to employment, vote, marriage and child adoption across the country.

When asked if the states were consulted about the option for third gender in the census, Director Census (Chandigarh) Bindhyeshwari Negi said it was considered during a meeting with the home minister. However, she said the opinion was divided about this aspect and no decision could be reached.

“It is a valid question. After all, the third gender does exist in our society. They cannot be ignored,” she said. Director Census (Haryana) Neerja Sekhar said the third gender could opt for the male option on the form.

The Punjab and Haryana governments had recently announced including the third gender in the category of male for the purpose of government recruitment.

The decision was made after a petition filed by a third gender person complained of discrimination on the basis of his sex in government recruitment.
The high court has issued a notice to the Centre on the same petition asking it to spell its policy on the issue.

Two years ago, eunuchs won a huge battle in Tamil Nadu when the third sex was granted official status by the state. In the ration cards and application forms for college education, there is provision to record third gender or transgender as an option.

However, even in Tamil Nadu, eunuchs have to wait for a separate categorisation in passports and voter identity cards since it would require a policy decision from the Centre.

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