Jan Møller Hansen: Neither Man nor Woman – Transgenders in Bangladesh
Neither Man nor Woman – Transgenders in Bangladesh:In the West, they are known as hermaphrodites or eunuchs. The hijras have been part of the South Asian landscape for thousands of years – they are born male but grow up feeling like and dressing as women. Marked out because of their sexual difference, they are a despised and oppressed minority.
The hijras are fighting for their rights, and they want to be treated equally among other people. They want others to know that they are also normal human beings. They want to be allowed to lead a normal life like others. The hijras claim that others do not understand their life, gender and sexuality. They want the society and the government to recognise them with equally rights as other human beings. No public institutions, private companies or individuals want to employ hijras, and they do not get admitted to schools or colleges. They have limited access to legal and health services. It is nearly impossible for hijras to vote or to get a passport.
Although the hijras often provoke horror or ridicule, they have traditionally had a role to play on the margins of society as entertainers and as bestowers of curses and blessings. They are often surrounded by fear and superstition, and sometimes they are hired to remove bad luck for new buildings under construction, to bring good luck for new-born babies or to entertain at weddings.
The hijras live in small closed groups led by a guru (teacher). Few are born hermaphrodites and some undergo ritual emasculation at puberty or as adult. The hijras have a very strong sense of identity and belonging to the group. The hijras are usually excluded and abandoned by their own families and relatives. Many people do not like transgenders – they feel uncomfortable in their company, and their traditional perceptions on traditional gender roles are often seriously questioned.
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