India’s top court recognizes third gender category

NEW DELHI — India’s top court on Tuesday issued a landmark verdict recognizing transgender rights as human rights, saying people can identify themselves as a third gender on official documents.

The Supreme Court directed the federal and state governments to include transgendered people in all welfare programs for the poor, including education, health care and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges. Previously, transgendered Indians could only identify themselves as male or female in all official documents.

The decision was praised as giving relief to the estimated 3 million Indians who are transgender.

The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

“All documents will now have a third category marked ‘transgender.’ This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us. Today I am proud to be an Indian,” said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender activist who, along with a legal agency, had petitioned the court.

The court’s decision would apply to individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

“The spirit of the (Indian) Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” the court said in its order.

The Supreme Court specified its ruling would only apply to transgender people but not to gays, lesbians or bisexuals. India’s LGBT communities have been protesting the court’s recent decision to reinstate a colonial-era law banning gay sex, which they say will make them vulnerable to police harassment.

The court also ordered the government to put in place public awareness campaigns to lessen the social stigma against transgender people.

Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan told the court that the “recognition of transgender (people) as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue.”

“Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights,” he said.

The court ruled that transgender people would have the same right to adopt children as other Indians.

The court said any person who underwent surgery to change his or her sex would be entitled to be legally recognized as belonging to the gender of their choice.

The apex court also ordered state governments to construct separate public toilets for transgender people and create health departments to take care of their medical problems.

Recently, India’s Election Commission for the first time allowed a third gender choice — “other” — on voter registration forms. The change was made in time for the national elections being held in phases through May 12.

Some 28,000 voters registered themselves in that category.

Many transgendered men in India earn a living by singing and dancing at weddings and births, but others must resort to begging or prostitution.

More in Local News

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Lake Stevens man missing since beginning of January

Jason Michael Knox White hasn’t used his credit card or withdrawn money from his bank since then.

Most Read