What India's 'Third Gender' Ruling Means

Transgender Candidate Hijra Guru Baseer Kinnar a.k.a. Kamala Kinnar speaks to a resident while campaigning in a Muslim neighborhood on April 23, 2014 in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, India. The 55 year old transgender leader, who was born a Muslim man, is running against BJP leader Narendra Modi in the district. India's court issued a landmark ruling in recent weeks recognizing transgenders as a third official gender under law. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

In a ruling last month, the Indian Supreme Court gave Indians the right to choose their gender and created a “third gender” category for those who don’t identify as either male or female.

Activists say there are at least 2 million people who qualify for that third category in India. They are either transgender, transsexual or cross-dressers. The word used in India for this group is hijira.

What does this ruling mean, and what is it about the region’s culture and politics that three nations in South Asia now have an official third gender category?

Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks to two experts: Philip Lutgendorf, professor of Hindi and modern Indian studies at the University of Iowa, and Aniruddha Dutta, assistant professor in the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies and Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Iowa.

Guests

  • Philip Lutgendorf, professor of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies at the University of Iowa. He also writes a blog on Hindi films.
  • Aniruddha Dutta, assistant professor in the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies and Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Iowa.
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