India Recognizes Third Gender Just In Time For Elections

Sameera Ehteram
In a ruling that made thousands cheer for joy, India's Supreme Court has granted the country's transsexual and transgender individuals the right to classify themselves as a third gender. Now only if gays, lesbians and bisexuals were legally allowed to carry on with their lifestyles, the celebrations would have more meaning.

Third Gender Recognized In India

The new ruling is a giant leap forward.

What it means is that transgender people in India no longer have to classify themselves as either “male” or “female” in official documents like birth certificates, passports and driving licenses. They can simply identify themselves as a third gender. 

“It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” the court ruled.

“Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” says Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, one of the two head judges on the Supreme Court bench.

However, the fact that gay sex is still banned in India has taken away from the cheer.

Read More: Eat This Supreme Court, India’s Going ‘Gay For A Day’

Not long ago, the Indian Supreme Court’s reversed a 2009 court order that decriminalized homosexuality, reinstating a ban on gay sex. This prompted a strong reaction from all over India.

India’s general elections will be held on May 16, and LGBT rights activists hope the new parliament will repeal the anti-gay law.

However, this ruling in favor of the transgender community is nothing short of a landmark.

India's Election Commission introduced a law, adding the gender choice of ‘other’ to male and female on voter registration forms.

People have a lot to celebrate.

"Today I feel a proud citizen of India. This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us," said India’s prominent transgender rights activist, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, "Today my sisters and I feel like real Indians and we feel so proud because of the rights granted to us by the Supreme Court."

Activist Mohsin Sayeed from neighboring Pakistan is also delighted for the transgender community, but chooses to keep a check on reality.

The verdict is definitely revolutionary in spirit. We must not forget that India has a very progressive constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and equal rights to people of all faiths. But we also know that not everything enshrined in the constitution is practiced in India. Also, it is the same court which in 2009 repealed a British colonial era law banning gay sex and then reinstated it last year. So, it is one step forward and two steps back.”