Candidly Transgender: Government of India officially recognises third gender

Government of India (GoI) has taken a commendable step towards mainstreaming hijras and transgenders by recognising their gharana system. The Election Commission of India has for the first time ‘recognised’ transgenders and modified the Form of Oath or Affirmation for the applicants by incorporating the words ‘chela’ (disciple) after son/daughter and ‘guru’ (teacher) after parents at relevant sections in order to facilitate registration of transgenders in the electoral rolls. The form can now be signed either by their guru or parents; this landmark guideline will now mean that if the transgender applicant does not have address proof or other documents, those of their gurus will suffice.

Also, in the second phase of AADHAR, project initiated by the GoI to deliver unique identification numbers to every resident across the country has a made a separate provision for registration of transgender individuals (as ‘T’). Aadhaar card has been recognised by the Government as a multipurpose card which can be used for implementation of various welfare schemes and also as proof of photo identity. The government has also been extensively popularising this new addition through  advertisements which states ‘All residents of India, including children, transgenders and the differently-abled are entitled to get the AADHAR card’.

The Pehchān programme welcomes this decision of the government in recognising and promoting the dignity and equality of transgender and hijras across India and is hopeful that this step will further contribute to increased responsiveness to the concerns of transgenders and greater understanding of diversity in gender and sexuality.


The author of this post, Yadavendra Singh, is Senior Programme Officer: Capacity Building for Alliance India’s Pehchan Programme.

With support from the Global Fund, Pehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

2 thoughts on “Candidly Transgender: Government of India officially recognises third gender

  1. While it seems to be a step in the right direction, it does raise concerns as the word ‘transgender’ seems to have collapsed to mean only MtF Transpersons i.e. Trans Women and Hijdas whilst leaving out the experiences of FtM Transpersons,
    i.e Trans Men. The nomenclature is deeply problematic, and uncritical acceptance/ endorsement of such problematic conflations by civil society members and activists, if not policy making/influencing bodies, is only going to obfuscate the issue even further and invisibilise a minority within minorities. The other concern remains with the much hyped ‘Aadhar’ card initiative by the GoI. Whilst categories such as ‘other’ (it is ‘Other’ and not ‘T’ as mentioned in the link above, or it could be that it is different for different states) does not necessarily mean Transgender (here again an understanding that it is Trans Women/ Hijda that is popularly projected), translations in the local language (as available in the bi-lingual form) is again collapsed to Hijda. This I am speaking from the West Bengal experience, Trans Persons who have opted for ‘Other’ are marked as ‘Hijda’ in Bengali in the Aadhar Card. This is problematic.

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