When it comes to gender, the world tends to divide people into two categories: Male and female.
But how does it actually feel, if a person is born without assigned sexual characteristics or without gender?
Many people in our society experience feeling trapped in the wrong-gendered body. They are neither men nor women.
They endure a feeling of being male, female, both, or no gender. The negative stigma in our society does not allow them to fit into neatly labelled boxes. Gender identity is a complex issue, which depends on many factors like chromosomes, hormones, emotions, and even social and environmental factors. It is not as black and white as society suggests.
In South Asia, a person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, or a person who was born male and dresses as a woman, is known as hijra (transgender). They fall beyond the male-female dichotomy.
As members of a gender minority population, transgender people continuously encounter the challenges in terms of self discovery and sexual identity. They are constantly bullied because of their feminine acts.
The sufferings of hijras in our society are plentiful. Many of them have limited access or no access at all to education, and the majority of them are abandoned by parents and other family members. Transgender people fall within the vulnerable section of society, which is, at least in part, attributable to the social stigma. Over and over again, transgender people face exclusion by society, economic challenges, and classism.
A transgender person in our society faces a lot of harassment, discrimination, and obstacles in every step. Throughout their lives, they go through constant hardship because of the poor and narrow views of the people of our society at large. They are often physically, verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused.
As the citizens of Bangladesh and members of our society, transgender people’s rights need to be protected by anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation
Transgender people have existed for centuries in the Indian sub-continent. Our mainstream society still does not recognise gender diversity.
It was something to get used to for sure, but our society is very reluctant to accept things a little out of the norm and out of labelled boxes.
Throughout the years, increased media attention has helped to raise awareness about the fundamental rights of transgender people. In 2013, the government of Bangladesh took important steps toward acknowledging and protecting the rights of hijras by announcing the recognition of a third gender category.
It released a circular saying: “The government of Bangladesh has recognised the Hijra community of Bangladesh as a Hijra sex.”
This represented a significant step toward including transgender individuals in mainstream society.
It has also been very gratifying to see that the Ministry of Social Welfare invited hijras to apply for government employment in 2015.
Chromosomes control different aspects of development of the human body and one’s biological sex is one of them. Thus, it is determined by the chromosome, not by the person.
As citizens of Bangladesh and members of our society, transgender people’s rights need to be protected by anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation.
Like all other members of society, they also need education, employment, health care, etc. It is our duty to ensure that transgender people find their own voices and to ensure greater representation of diversity in race/ethnicity found among this population.
The acceptance of diversity teaches us to respect someone who is different from us. It teaches us to respect fundamental human rights.
Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-law from Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and an Advocate of Supreme Court of Bangladesh.