Annals of Indian Psychiatry

: 2017  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 59--61

Transgender: Status in India

Neena S Sawant 
 Department of Psychiatry, Seth GSMC and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Neena S Sawant
Department of Psychiatry, Seth GSMC and KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai  -  400  012, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Sawant NS. Transgender: Status in India.Ann Indian Psychiatry 2017;1:59-61

How to cite this URL:
Sawant NS. Transgender: Status in India. Ann Indian Psychiatry [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Dec 4 ];1:59-61
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Transgender community includes Hijras, Eunuchs, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc., who have been a part of Indian society for centuries. The Vedic and Puranic literatures mention “tritiyaprakriti” meaning the third gender and “napunsaka” meaning someone with the loss of procreative ability. The word hijra used in the Indian language appears to be derived from the Persian word hiz, i.e., someone who is effeminate and/or ineffective or incompetent. Another commonly used word is kinnar, whereas chhakka is used in a derogatory context.[1] Though most of the eunuchs seen today are begging at traffic signals or during weddings, they were a respected lot during the Mughal rule in the Medieval India. The word “eunuch” is derived from the Greek word “Euneukhos” which literally means bed chamber attendant.” Hence, they were put in charge of harems due to their emasculation.[1],[2] During the British rule, they were denied civil rights and were considered a separate caste or tribe who did kidnapping and castration of children and danced and dressed-like women.

The LGBTQ group is referred to as the “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community” which includes those with gender dysphoria and different sexual orientations. The lesbian and gay people have been accepted in many parts of the world and have also got their rights, but the transgender is still without rights.

 Prevalence of Transgender in India

Indian census has never recognized the third gender, i.e., transgender while collecting census data for years. However, in the Census of 2011, data of transgender were collected in the category of “Others” under Gender with details related to their employment, literacy, and caste. The census revealed the total population of transgender to be around 4.88 lakh. The data have been primarily linked to the males section as they are usually counted as men, but on request, they may be counted as women. Due to this, it is impossible to comment on the actual transgender population, though the census has provided an approximate estimate. The 2011 census also reported 55,000 children as transgender identified by their parents.[3]

 Current Scenario

The Supreme Court of India passed a unique judgment in April 2014[4] stating one's sexual orientation as the integral part of personality, dignity, and freedom and identified transgender as a third gender. In the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) versus Union of India case, the apex court provided the transgender (Hijras and Eunuchs) a legal identity along with seven other directions. Post the NLSA judgment; various courts passed favorable orders for the transgender community.

Based on the NLSA judgment, the Rajya Sabha passed the Rights of Transgender Bill, 2014. However, the government then passed another Bill, Rights for Transgender Persons Bill, 2015, modifying on the 2014 bill by removing the provisions relating to Transgender Rights Court as well as the National and State Commissions. The 2015 Bill underwent further changes and another bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016 — the transgender persons (Protection of Rights Bill), which invited criticism from the transgender and activists.[5]

 The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016

Highlights of the bill

The Bill defines a transgender person as one who is partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male. In addition, the person's gender must not match the gender assigned at birth and includes trans-men, trans-women, persons with intersex variations and gender-queersA transgender person must obtain a certificate of identity as proof of recognition of identity as a transgender person and to invoke rights under the BillSuch a certificate would be granted by the District Magistrate on the recommendation of a Screening Committee. The committee would comprise a medical officer, a psychologist or psychiatrist, a district welfare officer, a government official, and a transgender personThe Bill prohibits discrimination against a transgender person in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare. It directs the central and state governments to provide welfare schemes in these areasOffences such as compelling a transgender person to beg, denial of access to a public place, physical and sexual abuse, etc. would attract up to 2 years' imprisonment and a fine.[6]

Key issues and analysis

The Supreme Court has held that the right to self-identification of gender is part of the right to dignity and autonomy under Article 21 of the Constitution. However, objective criteria may be required to determine one's gender to be eligible for entitlementsThe Bill states that a person recognized as “transgender” would have the right to “self-perceived' gender identity. However, it does not provide for the enforcement of such a right. A District Screening Committee would issue a certificate of identity to recognize transgender personsThe definition of “transgender persons” in the Bill is at variance with the definitions recognized by international bodies and experts in IndiaThe Bill includes terms such as “trans-men,” “trans-women,” persons with “intersex variations,” and “gender-queers” in its definition of transgender persons. However, these terms have not been defined.[6]

There are several other areas which need clarifications such as certain criminal and personal laws which are currently in existence and only recognize the genders of “man” and “woman.” It is unclear how such laws would apply to transgender persons who may not identify with either of the two genders. Hence, these laws would need amendments.


The Government of India today has taken a stance and introduced several welfare policies and schemes for the transgender which would be a big step forward. These include census, documentation, issuing of the citizenship ID Cards, issuing passports along with social, economic, political transformation, housing, legal measures, police reforms, legal and constitutional safeguards to prevent human rights violations of the transgender community and institutional mechanisms to address specific concerns of transgender people.

 Medical Lexicon

The following definitions help in understanding the various gender-related terminologies:[7],[8],[9]

Assigned gender – refers to a person's initial assignment as male or female at birth. It is based on the child's genitalia and other visible physical sex characteristicsAgendered – ”without gender,” individuals identifying as having no gender identityCisgender – describes individuals whose gender identity or expression aligns with the sex assigned to them at birthCloseted – describes an LGBTQ person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identityComing out – The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts, and appreciates his or her sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with othersGender – denotes the public (and usually legally recognized) lived role as boy or girl, man, or woman. Biological factors combined with social and psychological factors contribute to gender developmentGender-atypical – refers to physical features or behaviors that are not typical of individuals Gender expression – the manner in which a person communicates about gender to others through external means such as clothing, appearance, or mannerisms. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect their gender identity or sexual orientationGender-nonconforming – refers to behaviors that are not typical of individuals with the same assigned gender in a given societyGender reassignment - denotes an official (and usually legal) change of genderGender identity – is a category of social identity and refers to an individual's identification as male, female or, occasionally, some category other than male or female. It is one's deeply held core sense of being male, female, some of both or neither and does not always correspond to biological sexGender dysphoria – as a general descriptive term refers to an individual's discontent with the assigned gender. It is more specifically defined when used as a diagnosisGender expansiveness – conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender systemGender fluidity – a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender, of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identityGender queer – gender queer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as “gender queer” may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categoriesTransgender – refers to the broad spectrum of individuals who transiently or persistently identify with a gender different from their gender at birth.(Note: The term transgendered is not generally used)Transsexual – refers to an individual who seeks, or has undergone, a social transition from male-to-female or female to male. In many, but not all, cases this also involves a physical transition through cross-sex hormone treatment and genital surgery (sex reassignment surgery)Transphobia - fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, transgender people.


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7American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.
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9Available from: [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 02].