The plight of the third gender

Sabiha Anjum writes about the plight of the third gender.


hijras (third gender) are vulnerable group of people with no security in life. They have to face such difficulties in our society just because of their gender diversity. Their lives are full of harassments and abuses. They are even termed as animals. It is true in our country even in this twenty first century!

In our country, the word ‘hijra’ is used to introduce the third gender who is neither male nor female, few of them born with intersex variations. They live a life excluded from the society, having no fixed profession, no dignity and honour. Sometimes they claim money on the occasions of childbirth and marriage. They also beg from the people walking on footpaths or travelling by buses or trains. Sometimes the beg money from the shopkeepers. The total process gives them an undignified social status.

The issue of hijra has remained a taboo. People treat them just like aliens! Hijras begin to suffer from identify crisis when they find that they are not like others. They are not what they looks like. Their physical growth appears as male but naturally their mind growth forms as female. Sometimes the opposite is true. Female mind in male body or male mind in female body is not basically acceptable by the society. Many of theses hijras play a dichotomous role to avoid bad reputation and discriminations. Some of them wear female clothes and receive female name while meeting with ‘normal’ people and adopt male gesture and clothes while living in family or visiting relatives. They often suffer from identity crisis for maintaining different gestures and attitudes. Questions rise in their mind: ‘Who am I? Why I am like this? Why I am so different from others? Why I am supposed to be what I am not?’ This identity crisis becomes one of the influential causes for them to leave their family. Even their family as well as society judge them as a curse and avoid them for their biological mismatch.

These socially excluded people are not allowed to participate in the mainstream culture, any religious and national festivals. In broader sense they are economically excluded to get job opportunities. They have no access to social, educational, legal and health services, having no security for their lives.

third-genderBut why they are not allowed to study in schools, colleges and universities with other ‘normal’ people? What is their fault that we — the ‘normal’ people — are not accepting them as our fellow classmates, fellow workers? Should it be normal for the sake of humanity? How can we become so insensible to their misery? Why their cries don’t reach to our ‘normal’ ears? And most importantly why there are no answers of these questions? These questions mentioned above should be strong enough for us to halt for a second and think.

Hijras suffer from loneliness, have to face hostile, abusive comments as they cannot keep harmony with the mental growth of other ‘normal’ boys are girls. Their effeminate attitudes become subjects of prank and humiliation.

Although the hijras are human being with full of efficiency and human dignity beyond the male-female dichotomy, government has not taken proper initiatives for these people. Our society has just rejected their different physical complexities. Hijras are boycotted from their own family, society, and state. Their own family hide them to cover the so called ‘shame’ and neglect the truth that hijras are not responsible for what they are. Society ignores the reality that they are just the third gender. Their gender is naturally constructed as diverse. For their diverse identity they cannot even inherit their family properties. Their funeral activities are also not functioned properly as the the persons related to that rituals are not willing to conduct funeral activities when he comes to know that it’s a dead body of a hijra!

Although some attempts are taken for the hijras by government and some non-governmental organisations who work for conserving human rights, those are really insufficient. We cannot step forward leaving these people having diverse gender identity far behind. Obviously they have the ability to serve various sectors, but at present they are not playing that role just because of not getting opportunity. They could become talented doctors, engineers, intelligent scientists, scholars and what not?

As a rational being, as a human of post modern era, we cannot avoid to look at the condition of these unprivileged people. We should realise that they are also human being like us. They have happiness, sorrow, emotion, pain like us. They are also hurt by ridiculous and abusive comments. Here the most important thing that we can do is to open our mind enough to see and feel the misery of these people, feel their misery as human beings. However the government should take attempt to bring these third gender people to mainstream. Government should create education facility for them. They should be provided enough health care service. And in the government services government should reserve a quota for them. If the government implement these initiatives strictly, it will begin to change people’s view about hijras, no doubt.


Sabiha Anjum is a student of Jahangirnagar University.

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