Education Inequality and Global Justice for the Third Gender. Hijras in India

Term Paper, 2013

17 Pages



Far and beyond the world of education and global social justice lays the unknown mysterious world of Eunuchs who are better known as Hijras in India. The reality of their existence is still a secret and their omnipresence in the Indian society is unavoidable. They have always remained an integral part of the Indian society from ancient time. But unfortunately their present state of existence has been reduced to abject poverty, illiteracy, hatred and mockery. Strangely when the whole world is immersed in the rights and laws for gays and other homosexuals; the Hijras are still living in the shadow of rejection from every basic right to equality and education. They have only become the topic for exploration and research for their strange appearances. The world at large has forgotten that they are also human beings and have equal rights like everybody. The negative attitude of the people and their segregation from the society has left them with no opportunity. The Indian government has only given them the right to vote but they face a bleak future without any access to education.


Gender and social identities have always been an issue within the society creating a bipolar debate of legality and redefinition of religious rules. Within the gender issues rises the question of the third sex. Discovering sexuality and gender with variations in educational institutes requires the understanding of differences in human anatomy and biological knowledge of their sexuality. According to (Duncan cited in Blaise and Phelan, 1997, p. 231) had de-contextualized the limitation of sexuality from being categorised as homosexual, bisexual or transgendered. Based on his argument there should be actually no separate identity. Most of the research and arguments were limited to homo-sexuality behaviour and their effect on the culture. Legal rights were constructed to promote equality and acceptance of homosexuality as part of the modern culture and society by government of UK (Cole, 2006). However, the struggle for equality in terms of race, class, gender or sexuality has been always phenomenon and contradictory. The representation of it has been always challenged by reactionary groups and “self employed morality guardians of the society” (Frye, 1981; Rubin, 1993). The stigmatization of homosexuality has been further criticised by feminists on the grounds of effeminacy. It has been considered to be “stereotypical female gender identity” ending up in a “spectrum camp” (Harper, 1991). One of the strongest arguments regarding sexual orientation was propounded by Foucault (1978) in his book called History of Sexuality: An Introduction. According to him the definition of sexuality has been always manipulated by political and religious power. The society always acted as an impending regulator for defining sexuality of individuals. There is no internal drive or force that can be expressed or thought as sexuality. The experiences and sexual discourse are continuously created, transformed, adapted and experiences might modify according to the desires. He assumed that sexuality should be synchronized and “administered” rather than” judged”.

Sexuality and gender identification has always been a problematic issue pervading the academic field and the focal point of debate for the accepted media. “Existing research in sexuality has focussed on such problems of sexuality as unwanted sexual activity, sexual abuse and rape which are important topics but all carry a socially constructed negative connotation” (Tiefer, 1995:21). Schools have often failed to satisfy the needs of these people falling in the category of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered. Their sexual identities have always affected their equality rights to education. The universal declaration of Human rights had stated that, “everybody is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. However, Article 2 of the declaration further stresses on non-discrimination on the grounds of age, sexuality or disability. Article 26 of the same declaration gives equal rights to free and compulsory elementary education to all (Cole, 2006). Within this sexuality controversy and gender differentiation the Eunuchs of India have lost in their identities and rights to education, respect and dignity. The Eunuchs are better known as Hijras in India. The cultural definition of Hijras (Eunuchs) is a disjunction between their role in the society and their sexual orientations, life histories and gender identifications. According to (Money, 1988:201) identification of gender is like a coin with two sides unifying to perform one single role.

Gender identity is the private experience of gender role, that sameness, unity, and persistence of one’s individuality as male, female, or androgynous, especially as experienced in self awareness and behaviour. Gender role is everything that a person says and does to indicate to others or to the self the degree that one is either male or female, or androgynous. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual and erotic arousal and response (Nanda, 1990, p.114).

The discourse of their tragedy lies in the fact that they are neither men nor women. Many types of nomenclatures like Hijras, asexual, Khusras, chakka, middle sex, Kinnars, neutrals etc. is used in India to define this specially segregated group (Sharma, 2009). Exclusion and discrimination in the Indian have severely restricted their social existence, rights to education and livelihood and has created a gender identity crisis. The gender issues have always been decked in forcing people to opt for the category of either masculine or feminine; in our culture, the answer both or neither are generally not acceptable (Kessler & McKenna, 1978:9). The Hijras of India had been a homogenous group in the ancient times and had been referred as “tritiya prakriti” in Sankrit language. The term was used for their specific classification as the third sex. They worked as guards and for the kings and emperors of ancient India and were highly regarded as companions for the royal household (Kalra, 2012). However in modern India their status has been dehumanized to that of an untouchable.

According to (Sharda.,N.D) lack of appropriate legal definition regarding the sexual orientation and gender of an individual may cause significant implications. Many countries like India; culturally embroiled in the feudal system still follows the traditional belief about sex and gender in spite of the fact that categorization have become complex. This failure in determining the sex and gender issues has alienated the Hijras and the transgender community from their civil and equality rights. According to (Fine, 1993) Educational and other societal establishments have always developed a negative attitude and had been insensitive towards this minority oppressed groups. They have been always rendered powerless by denying them the voice to speak.


To many the world of Hijras is unknown. Hijras are the omnipresent group of people roaming in the crowded markets and busy roads of India. They are found in huge numbers in big cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. Their destiny is determined by their appearances. They put on cheap make-up and wear colourful sari with badly fitting blouses. It is a bizarre caricature of womanhood. They clap their hands loudly, pushing around people and begging for money in hoarse male voice. Some of them work as prostitutes and pimps garishly dressed and standing in dark lanes and streets. They walk like women and their behaviour is more feminine rather than the masculine. Their mannerism doesn’t fully indicate either sex in its totality. Their outlandish behaviour makes them prominent sights for common man on the road. They sing and dance openly and collectively collect money from people by cajoling or forcing. People fear them because of their unnatural ways of touching; stroking and even threatening to show their genitals (Sharda., N.D).

Many theories about the origination of the Hijras have been brought forward by various researchers. Prominent among them was perhaps the statements made by the Hijras themselves claiming to be biologically and by nature deformed rather than being castrated or emasculated (Sharma, 2009). According to Nanda (1990) the word Hijra itself indicates a physical defectiveness and impairment in the male sexual function. It is considered to be a male genitalia irregularity. This definition is the central theory of emasculated and inter-sexed person whose genitals are ambiguous like a male but after discovery would be assigned with linguistic of being a Hijra. She further elaborates that some of them get emasculated by removing all the parts of the genital. They are “normal male and physically hale and hearty”.


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Education Inequality and Global Justice for the Third Gender. Hijras in India
University of Manchester
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Gender Studies
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Alpona Halder (Author), 2013, Education Inequality and Global Justice for the Third Gender. Hijras in India, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 6/18/2021

    It is high time we start thinking about third gender civil and equality rights and take them mainstream gradually.. which would also help in reduction of the unwanted EGO of other 2 genders

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