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Transgender & HIV - Hijras and Islam

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Hijras and Islam
Hijras and Islam
Hijras are mainly associated with Hinduism but they are also accepted within Islam.

During Mughal times, kwaja saras, or eunuchs, guarded the ladies of the harem (Jaffrey 31).

In her fieldwork among the hijras of Hyderabad, Zia Jaffrey discovered that during the era when Hyderabad was a princely state, hijras were employed as servants in the homes of the nobility (Jaffrey 116).

Transgender in India today
There are three main ways in which the transgender community make a living
    Transgender community
  1. Performing Badhai
  2. Begging
  3. Sex Work
Transgender and the Law in India
  • Hijras have few rights and are not recognized by Indian Law.
  • Hijras are denied the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to marry and the right to claim formal identity through any official documents.
  • Accessing healthcare, employment or education becomes almost impossible.
  • As is the case for all gay, lesbian and bisexual people living in India, simply by being sexually active hijras are breaking the law.
  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) outlaws any: “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” − in other words, any sex that is not between a man and a woman with the aim of reproduction. Brought in by the British in 1860 to try and curb the “heathen customs” of the local population, it carries with it a potential life sentence.
A Hijra’s Experience
I am 39 and a graduate in hotel management. Somewhere deep in my heart I wanted to be female, so one morning aged 16 I went to be castrated.

I now have another hijra staying with me and six or seven chelas, or followers. I am their guru. I am educated so have had many options, but 98% of hijras are illiterate and don’t know what to do.

I am 21 and became a hijra three years ago. We don’t have proper sex change operations in India, so I had castration. We hijras have only two options – begging or sex work. I am a sex worker and I don’t feel it’s a bad thing to be one. I always liked cross–dressing. I work in an NGO doing very important rights work helping hijras and female sex.

I volunteer for Vividha, the group staging this event (Festival of Hijras 2003). After last year’s event there was a drastic reduction in police violence, harassment and all that, so we want it to go on.

Though hijras have existed so long, the law speaks about only two genders. We can’t get ration cards, passports or voter IDs. Sex work is my only option.

Transgender: Discrimination
Being a eunuch in this world spells discrimination. I grew up as one of them without education. Why? The reason was that I was refused admission in schools because of me being a eunuch. Like everyone I also had the desire to read and write. Without education I grew up and had no way to earn a living. I was unwanted and cursed. Most of the time I go to dark corners and wave to men and call them. Then take them to a roadside secret place and give them the sexual satisfaction they need. Only after they are satisfied I get paid. Old age is now tormenting me. What should I do other than getting involved in illegal activities or begging?

Am I not human? Does human mean only men and women? Why are we deprived of humanity?

Age: 50 years Birthplace: Kolkata
Click to view large Image
Kolkata Map
I am from Kolkata. My family consists of two brothers and three sisters. Even as a child, I loved dancing, wearing girls clothing, and using cosmetics. Whenever I acted in plays, it was a foregone conclusion that it would be me who would enact the role of the girl.

I came to Delhi and merged into the hijra community after the death of my father. I, my giriya (husband), my mother and one of my sisters share one home. I have been living with my giriya for the past fifteen years and work as a pan toli. My giriya works in a production house and a part of the pooled earnings go to my giriya’s ex–wife and child.

Prior to meeting my giriya, I was married twice. My wife, unable to conceive because of my biological condition ultimately divorced me. One of my strong characteristics is that I am highly opinionated. As a hijra I do not pay attention to the obscene remarks directed at me. I say, “Let them say whatever they feel like–it doesn’t make any difference to me. What you see is what you get.”

I began to visit the Sahara transgender project for treatment of the many minor illnesses that befell me. In due course, learning of Sahara’s expertise in weaning people off narcotic and alcohol addiction, I confessed my dependence on liquor. I now have a health care worker assigned to me full time and part of my care package involves receiving, understanding and practicing safer behaviors related to sex and alcohol use. Though I suspect that I could be HIV positive due to the extent of my exposure to the virus, I have as yet not consented to test. Sahara is in no hurry preferring to wait until I am ready and have made an informed and definite choice.

Research conducted by Sahara

Transgender in Chennai
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    Chennai Map
  • It is estimated that some 300 Alis sell sex in Chennai alone.
  • Alis are almost entirely dependant on sex work.
  • Alis have a high number of sexual contact with ’Heterosexual’ men.
  • They engage in a large number of sexual practices including sapti (inter–femoral sex–between the thighs), anal and oral sex.
  • All Alis are members of the Jamaath, or community.
  • Alis are known to be geographically mobile within Tamil Nadu, also travel between Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and less so New Delhi.
Pradeep (2002) ’Interventions among Men Who have Sex with Men’ in Panda et al (eds), Living with the AIDS virus – the epidemic and the response in India New Delhi:Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd.




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