Third Gender of Bangladesh: An under privileged community

Most Hijras are abandoned from their family right after their birth. We complain about their rough behaviour and constantly used submissive begging attitude towards people.Do we ever notice of their hardships which they go through? They are also human beings having right to live with dignity. Hijras of Bangladesh, are one of the most vulnerable and neglected community. Physiologically, Hijras could be born with ambiguous genitals, male genitals or female genitals. During the fetal development abnormal level of sex hormones is said to be the main factor of giving birth to Hijra.

In our legal system, there is no specific legal protection for this ill-fated community. On November 2013, the cabinet approved a “policy decision” to identify Hijras as people of separate gender and then Bangladesh Government approved Hijra as an official third gender on January 26, 2014 by clearly stating that, “The government of Bangladesh has recognized the Hijra community of Bangladesh as a Hijra sex”. This landmark decision has led to the recognition of the rights of around 10,000 individuals and according to a survey by a Ministry of Social welfare, Bangladesh has a transgender population of around 11, 000, it is claimed around 50,000 by many other humanitarian organizations. But their gender identity has not been implemented yet.

Hijras were also given voting rights in Bangladesh on December 2009. Election Commission is yet to enroll them as voters and provide them with NID cards with their distinct and specific social identity. In fact there is no option in the voter registration form or in the NID stating their gender as their sex. Therefore due to the ignorance of recognition by the Election Commission as third gender, they can not mention it as their identity. Not only that, there are separate option(others)in the passport form, but they are not able to use it because there is no such option mentioned in their birth certificates or NID cards .

Though living in a democratic state, they are clearly treated unequally contrasted to article 27 of the Constitution of Bangladesh.
There is no standard of recognizing hijra in Bangladesh. So the appointed officials involved in this sector try to identity hijra with their personal intelligence. In December 2014,Ministry of Social Welfare invited Hijras to apply for government employment and the proposal was accepted warmly by the Hijras. But during interviews, they were discriminated against for their gender identity and sexuality. Say for example, A Hijra who liked to dress like a woman, forced to dress like a man as government officials interfered by saying that someone might get afraid of the Hijra. For getting the job the Hijra changed the appearance.

Hijras are being harassed also in our country. In January 2015, the Ministry of Health issued a memorandum requesting that “necessary steps are taken to identify authentic Hijras by conducting a thorough medical check up. That was a call to not identify authentic Hijras but to harass them in the name of medical check up! In June 2015, during those so called examinations, they were harassed by the non medical hospital staffs .Photos were published in the online and print media of 12 Hijras with an allegation that “they were real men and tried to fraudulently get the job”.

There is a common allegation that Hijras often bother public for money. But without giving any definite employment, political and social rights compel them to ask for money from people. Not giving them the recognition of their gender yet, Hijras can’t participate in any sort of services even if they earn any higher degrees of institutions by adopting any of legally recognized genders by concealing their own identity.

Hijras don’t inherit paternal property just because of lack of personal inheritance law which leads them to inhumane struggle of life. Article 42 of the Constitution confers the right of property which can’t be exercised by them just because of their gender identity.

Social security of Hijas can only be assured by conferring them all the constitutional rights. Different scheme, projects, politics can be adopted to for their advancement in the society. Reserving quotas for Hijas by identifying them as under privileged community, they can get the avenue to equal them with mainstream people. A separate department may be assigned to supervise adoption and implementation of these steps, and hear the grievances of this unfortunate community. Coordination among ministries will ensure the Hijras an upgraded life.

Human Rights Watch calls on Bangladesh government to better protect the human rights of Hijras and to allow them changing their official gender on legal documents by developing legal mechanisms and by enacting an anti-discrimination law that will prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Moreover,in my opinion Bangladesh government can give a deadline to the Election Commission to enlist Hijras as voters so that they can contribute to choose future leaders of our country.

This is matter of hope that, govt. is getting sincere about their rights, employment and social security issues. Already different govt. organs as well as NGOs are working to develop the life standard of Hijra community.

The following two tabs change content below.
Mithila Barua

Mithila Barua

Mithila Barua is a student of Law, University of Chittagong.
Mithila Barua

Latest posts by Mithila Barua (see all)