India's top court recognized the country's transgender community as a third gender in a landmark judgment and human-rights groups, praising the development, have called on the government to ensure their equal treatment, according to Reuters.
There are hundreds of thousands of transgenders in India, say activists, but because they are not legally recognized, they are ostracized, discriminated against, abused and often forced into prostitution. The court rulingwhich came after hearing a petition filed by a group of transgender individuals demanding equal rightsrecognized the community as a marginalized group and directed authorities to implement policies to improve their socioeconomic status.
"We are quite thrilled by the judgement," Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC.
"The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets," she said.
Trikone-Chicagoa registered not-for-profit organization for LGBTQ South Asians and their family, friends, allies and communityissued a statement lauding the judgment.
"[T]he Supreme Court of India instructs the state to identify the transgender community as a minority and recommends the state to institute affirmative action policies aimed at social inclusion, better education, employment opportunities and access to health care," the release states. "It also directs the state to adopt the recommendations of the expert committee constituted to study issues faced by transgender individuals within six months of submission of the report.
"We hope that these directions are followed through by the state. We hope that these directions are followed through by the state. We also hope they are followed through irrespective of any administration that assumes office after the elections that are underway in India."
The release also states a local connection to the decision: "[A]s a Chicago-based organization, we are happy to see Chicago cited as the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois struck down the municipal law prohibiting cross-dressing in City of Chicago v. Wilson et al, 75 III.2d 525 (1978).
"Trikone-Chicago hopes, with cautious optimism, that this provides some justice and opportunity to the transgender community in India."