"Third sex" people of India live in constant ridicule
Naru Narayanan, For The Mirror
Issue date: 3/4/09 Section: Perspectives
*Editor's Note: Naru Narayanan is a student from India who is studying integrated media at Drury for the next three years. Throughout this semester Naru will describe his native culture and share his international perspective with The Mirror.*
Is having a sex essential even when you are not having sex? A set of people are used for taking blessings, but not respected and accepted in the society, isn't it weird? Could you believe that those people are ill-treated and isolated because they don't have a fixed sex? "Hijaras," or eunchs, are the people who are known as third sex people. They are neither male nor female. There are more than half a million Hijaras in India. They are one of the leading suffering communities of India.
There are two kinds of Hijaras: one is born with a physical form of a Hijara, and the other simply feels like another sex. For the second kind, usually, at the age of 6 to 8, a man feels the sexual conflict. He is a male physically, but feels he is a female and behaves like a girl. The Hijaras (both physical and mental ones) leave their families and go in search of similar people because their family and friends are not ready to accept them, and they want to be with their kind of people.
They live together in groups in various parts of the country. Boys who feel they are girls gets his male genital parts chopped off (castrated) and becomes girls completely. This is done without anesthesia by many people as it is their tradition and belief. And others undergo a sex-change operation and gradually become girls. As they are not allowed to mingle with the general population, most of them are not educated and do not have good jobs. The Hijaras take up three kinds of occupations: dancing and singing in ceremonies, begging, and prostitution.
People believe that the Hijaras' blessings or curses are powerful and so invite them for marriages and child birth ceremonies to make blessings.
It is also believed that they possess some magical powers, but the Hijaras deny that. On one side, people call them for making blessings, but on the other hand, people ridicule, mock, and abuse them badly.
Most of the Hijaras beg or become prostitutes for their living. Begging and prostitution is the consequence of the ill-treatment by people, and even then they are not spared.
Some Hijaras say even the policemen harass them and that the policemen use the Hijaras to harass the criminals sexually.
When Hirjaras beg the people move away from them, get scared of them, and make fun of them. Some Hijaras use abusive language to make money, rub their hands on the private parts of the people and also kiss them. Sometimes, they lift their clothes up to make them give money.
I was able to interview a group of Hijaras and I think they are not as bad as they are portrayed.
Scolding and annoying people for making money is bad, but it seems defensive to me. When they are continuously abused by people, for decades, they will have to take up some measures to stop that, and they maybe chose this.
Before my documentary shoot with them, I was informed that they stripped a reporter's clothes, snatched his camera and cash. But they were not at all mean to us. In fact, they were really sweet and co-operative, and they were not ready to take a penny.
I saw many admirable, as well as pitiable, things in them. Just one day with them and I was able to feel the pain and torture they underwent everyday; I was not able to stand it.
When I walked with them on the road, people moved away from us. Some of my own friends laughed at me. We were not allowed to stand anywhere, go to residential areas and so many more restrictions and insults.
In spite of all these experiences, everyday and night, they have solid characters and high goals and principles, and most important of all, they are united.
Every Hijara wants her community to grow, prosper and be accepted in the society. The day to attain their goals is not far. There are many Hijaras who have proved themselves in various fields - education, occupation, social work and even family life.
The greatest thing I admire about them is when one Hijara succeeds, she makes at least four more Hijaras to succeed.
Source: Click here
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