In a landmark judgment, the Indian Supreme Court has created the “third gender” status for transgendered people when until now they were forced to write male or female against their gender.
They are now to be known as belonging to an ‘Other Backward Class’ – OBC.
Other Backward Class (OBC) is a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are educationally and socially disadvantaged. It is one of several official classifications of the population of India, along with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs). The OBCs were found to comprise 52% of the country’s population by the Mandal Commission report of 1980, a figure which had shrunk to 41% by 2006 when the National Sample Survey Organisation took place.
The SC asked the Court to treat transgender as socially and economically backward or disadvantaged.
The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.
The SC said absence of law recognizing a third gender could not be continued as a ground to discriminate them in availing equal opportunities in education and employment.
This is for the first time that the third gender has got a formal recognition. The third gender people will be considered as OBCs, the SC said.
The SC said they will be given educational and employment reservation as OBCs.
The apex court also said states and the Centre will devise social welfare schemes for third gender community and run a public awareness campaign to erase social stigma.
The SC said the states must construct special public toilets and departments to look into their special medical issues.
The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and can not be discriminated.
The apex court expressed concern over transgenders being harasssed and discriminated in the society and passed a slew of directions for their social welfare.
The apex court said that trangenders were respected earlier in the society but situation has changed and they now face discrimination and harassment.
It said that section 377 of IPC is being misused by police and other authorities against them and their social and economic condition is far from satisfactory.
The bench clarified that its verdict pertains only to eunuchs and not other sections of society like gay, lesbian and bisexuals who are also considered under the umbrella term ‘transgender’.
The bench said they are part and parcel of the society and the government must take steps to bring them in the main stream of society.
The apex court passed the order on a PIL filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) urging the court to give separate identity to transgenders by recognising them as third category of gender.
Welcoming the Supreme Court decision, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, transgender rights activist said, “the progress of the country is dependent upon human rights of the people and we are very happy with the judgment as the Supreme court has given us those rights.”