India now joins the ranks of Nepal and Bangladesh in passing third gender legislation. India’s high court issued the landmark ruling on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. A reported 3 million individuals in India 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 will be served under the new law.
Federal and state governments have been instructed by the Supreme Court to include third gender citizens in all welfare programs for the poor, including education, health care and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges.
“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 transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi.
The ruling also stated that transgender people would have the same right to adopt children as other Indians.
“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.
Separate public toilets will be installed in public spaces, and new health departments are under consideration to help with specific medical problems affecting that community, according to the order.
Public awareness campaigns are expected to flourish in light of the new law in an effort to increase acceptance of transgender people.
“Recognition of transgender [people] as a third gender is not a social or medical issue, but a human rights issue,” said Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan to the court. “Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights.”