Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009


  • “Some accept them, others hate them, many fear them, many are amazed by them, a few like them, many make fun of them, and no one invites them in. They are considered unclean, and only their lovers eat with them at the same table.
  • “Only a Hijra can understand another Hijra
  • Why don’t these idles do some job and labor?”

  • If u get a hijra birth in your home I’ll see how would you find him a job”, criticizing and commenting is the easiest job in the world. If I ask you to come forward and provide an opportunity for a job, you will not even offer me the minimum wage at your working place

  • “People don’t trust them because they are liars and robbers.”
  • When a person is starved for 2 days and nobody bothers to offer him a scrap of food how can you expect loyalty from him?”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


It is time that the government should take steps to protect the rights of eunuchs. According to one NGO, there are almost 45000 registered eunuchs in Lahore who are being provided assistance and opportunities that they can avail for a better survival. Under the Department of Health, the Government of Punjab has awarded an assignment to the consortium comprising of Contech international National Health Education Research & Resource Institute and Savior-Faire.

Project staff has registered 45000 eunuchs in Lahore working through Special Health centers and field work with the help of peer educators. In context of registration project staff has register 45000 eunuchs from all over the city.

Keeping in mind, the efforts being made by NGO’s in our society, the government should now take the initiative to provide schools for the eunuchs, so that these eunuchs have some basic education. Many of the eunuchs, who were part of our preliminary research, had primary education, while a few had even passed secondary school. Thus, it is all about providing them with opportunities that the eunuchs can avail. It is about time, the government recognizes the hijras as humans, provides them with basic necessities and education opportunities, so that eunuchs born with sexual deformities can avail education, learn how to read and write and can pursue their careers. This is the only way these eunuchs will not resort to illegal, inhumane activities like beggary and prostitution. Moreover, the government/ local administration should arrange stipends and monetary assistance to the poor and provide opportunities to the effected sections of the people. Those who are born with the sexual deformity should be provided either handsome financial help so that they could become acceptable in their own families and they should be given share/quota employment for the handicaps, enabling them to lead a normal life. Moreover, the government should devise ways to disseminate information regarding psychological problems related to sexual minorities and develop public awareness to handle the issue. The government should also develop programs to enhance and build up knowledge regarding AIDS/STDs to the masses and hijras as well. The government should arrange the medical assistance for affected individuals and enforce strict laws on auto-castration.

In short, it is evident that the government is not taking adequate steps, to put an end to the discrimination against eunuchs that has existed since ages. Given the pace of development in other phases of life, it is time, we recognize that this neglected group of people, are as equal

human beings as all of us and as deserving as any other individual. The government, instead of ignoring the increasing number of eunuchs should more actively approach to homosexuals and develop public awareness programs to handle the issue. This will not just reduce the level of illegal activities of prostitution in the country but raise the awareness levels of the public in general and the eunuchs, in particular. Also, such public awareness programs will help reduce the number of HIV infected people as precautionary measures are made familiar with the eunuchs. At the end, there should be complete record of born hijras on district levels. It is not just the work of a few NGO’s but the combined efforts of the government and the NGOs that will help address the issue of discrimination against eunuchs. A complete record of hijras is the initial and the most important step that should be undertaken, so that these hijras can either be provided financial help publicly to restrain them from falling in socially unacceptable activities or assign them quota in employment.

Even if it is impossible to completely end the discrimination against eunuchs, the government can play a major role in reducing the derogation against them, promoting their welfare, and working for their rights.


According to our research results there are only a few active NGO’s working for the rights of these hijras. Contech International Health Education Research Resource Institute (NHERRI) is one such institute working for the rehabilitation of hijras, providing them enough job opportunities and basic education so that they do not indulge in activities like beggary and prostitution. Although the program objectives of this NGO is to reduce the risk of HIV AIDS among MSM (men having sex with men), these also continue to register and provide services to newly registered hijras, and providing health education sessions.

It is interesting to note that the NGO’s are playing a very active role for the welfare of hijras. In recent years, various organizations have been formed o address HIV/AIDS awareness and human right issues. The Contech International Health Education Research Resource Institute (NHERRI) is on example but although efforts are being backed up or supported by government assistance. This is acting as a hindrance and threatens to curtail opportunities for hijras, increasing their dependence on prostitution. If a comparative analysis is undertaken, there are almost thrice the numbers of NGO’s working in India than in Pakistan along with government support.

In recent years organization such as the Dai Welfare Society and Hijras and Kalyan Sabha have been formed to address eunuch related issues a raise voice for their welfare. In India, some hijras have become involved I politics-in 2000 “Aunt” Shabnam Mausi was elected to her state legislature and Kama Jaan and Asha Devi were selected mayors of their towns. We are competing with our arch rivals India in every single phase of life, be it be at the economic front or the socio political front. Why is it then difficult for the government to compete with the front of India when it comes to the rights of the eunuchs? ‘We could have eunuchs as ministers, eunuchs in opposition, eunuchs as judges and even eunuchs as law enforcers’. Why is the gender discrimination still present in Pakistan? Unfortunately, the poor gender less people are ‘neglected’, ‘abhorred’, and considered a ‘burden’ on the society. ‘Their only fault is that they cannot prosecute’. We could all argue that a large majority of them is engaged in unlawful activities, but that is only because they are not given any recognition anywhere. There is no reason why eunuchs should not be given an opportunity to participating in politics. Therefore, the fault rests with the government. How many times has the government addressed the issue of deciding on the gender and fate of the eunuchs? Since ancient times, till today, according to old legal texts that are dealt with the third sex, eunuchs have no right to inherit property and, are not allowed to conduct sacrifices. The third sex has always been recognized by the people, the society and the government yet always discriminated. Consequently we have therefore, never come across a unisex public toilet or even a school where the eunuchs can avail education opportunities without being victims to ridicule and derogatory remarks. It is indeed unfortunate to see that eunuchs today a no place in our society. The only bit of efforts that are being made one being made by a handful of NGO’s and no steps being taken by the government at all.

Pakistani eunuchs have demanded that they be allowed to play a role in national politics, through reserved seats at all legislative forums, but the government has refused; saying eunuchs have the same status as any other citizen of the country.

“Eunuchs can get elected from any legislative forum like other citizens, because they neither belong to a minority nor are they considered females,” said government officials.

“The federal government has refused to reserve seats for eunuchs in national as well as provincial assemblies, and if eunuchs want o get involved in national politics, they should contest elections like other people,” said an Interior Ministry official. “Eunuchs are considered males in Pakistan, not females, at the time they are issued national identity cards,” he said, adding that therefore they could not be treated specially.

All Pakistan Eunuch’s Association (APEA) officials have demanded that the government reserve special seats for eunuchs at the national, provincial or district level in Pakistan’s history, but they have been elected councilors in few areas.

At an APEA convention at Kot Adu last month, eunuchs also demanded that dancing and singing be considered bachelors degrees and their sexual status be mentioned in national identity cards. NADRA refused to mention eunuchs’ sexual status in NIC’s, with one official, Nabeel Najam, saying, “If a normal citizen is referred to as a eunuch because of a printing error or some other mistake, there will be serious trouble for NADRA.” An office-bearer of the APEA, Sunny, said the government was not cooperating with eunuchs over these issues.

If the educated, English speaking class of the eunuchs, enlarging in Pakistan, can become fashion designers, hair stylists, decorators etc, why can’t the underprivileged be provided with educational facilities and equal opportunities. Universal declarations on human rights clearly hold that all human beings, irrespective of gender (among others such as race, caste, creed etc) are entitled to human rights. Yet the eunuchs are denied rights since decades.


The hijras in our society suffer discrimination at every level. There are sizeable hijra communities in Lahore divided into several clans. According to statistics provided by a non-government organization (NGO), Contech International Health Education Research Resource Institute, a total of 45000 registered eunuchs in Lahore, but census data on them does not exist, making accurate enumeration impossible they continue to persist as marginalized and secretive community. Although stereotypes about hijras are constantly recycled as “alienation-grabbing” headlines, little actually make any difference. It is not just the people but even government harbors a negative attitude towards them. This is evident from the inactive role that the government is playing.


Not all the eunuchs and transgenders are involved in prostitution. Some decide to lead a ‘respectable’ life by marrying other men or their own kind. A lot of eunuchs we interviewed have married among themselves and go around as a couple. Some marry a ‘giriya’. Giriya can go out and again have sex with other girls, if he pleases. He’s not bound but eunuchs are bound to remain loyal and honest with their ‘husband’. Some of them get so emotionally involved with them that if they come to know that their husbands have married elsewhere, they can come to the point of even committing suicide.

An NGO working for them, by the name of The Male Sex Workshop, discovered that eunuchs and transgenders are at high risk of contracting HIV. This is so because they are not aware of safety measures, such as condoms. Even if they are, and the other person refuses to practice safe sex, they have little or no say because they cannot risk their lives by saying ‘No’! They are as delicate and sophisticated as any other female. This prostitution not only results in HIV but other infections too like syphilis, gonorrhea etc. Absolutely these people who have sex with men are hit hard with HIV and remain one of the main high risk groups.

“Eunuchs are innocent, brave people because they own their identity in a society that does not accept them. Every eunuch has a reaction against society because society, even their own families, usually try to suppress their feelings and ultimately discard them”, say the Khiljis. The question that constantly strikes one’s mind is that who is responsible for this misfortune? The eunuchs themselves or the society? And who is going to justify their being? Farah, a eunuch claimed; “Only a Hijra can understand another Hijra!”


It is thus clear that the third gender in Pakistan is for sure not accepted till now. They are recognized to exist but are discriminated against. A lot of people raise their voices and say that ‘they are also human beings and should be given the opportunity to lead a normal life’. And then it is the same people who use and abuse them and exploit them in the worst manners for their own satisfaction. This brings us to the shameful but very much there problem of our society, eunuch prostitution. This thing is very common in Pakistan, primarily Lahore. Late at night, one can see these eunuchs standing at bus stops in the markets and in the very famous Red Light area. Some of them keep waiting for their clients, the other attracting men. Their clients are ‘normal’ men, who allow themselves both a wife and a hijra. Some even have longtime lovers, who say that hijras are not real men, they don’t have that essence. Not only this, girls as young as 12 years roam those streets carrying bottles of perfumed oil, offering to give a massage for as little as Rs. 50. It seems as if they are enjoying it, they are happy with the way it all works. But a deeper look into their lives and history reveals that things are a lot different from what they seem to be. These are eunuch and transgenders who are shunned by their families and who live under the constant threat of abuse and exploitation. These are those individuals who we blame for polluting our society but have we ever thought why they do this? None of them are given any job opportunities. They are barely treated as human beings. They have no voice. Our society is so ignorant, conservative and intolerant towards there sexual minorities that they can never come to peace with them. So in such suffocating conditions, what options do we leave them with? For sure, they do not have a choice than to indulge in such sexual activities and earn a living or to beg around. 2% of the total eunuchs are indulged in prostitution by their own will.

This is not just the only reason for being involved in prostitution. When eunuchs or transgenders are born in a family, they are neither accepted by males nor by females of their family, for the reason that they belong to the third kind and people around them cannot accept them. Some parents feel that they might improve if they are married off, but that only ends up in a bigger disaster. They enjoy having sex with females but they frequently urge to have sex with a male. With the woman, they are active partner but they constantly desire to be the passive partner and the only option they are left with is to have anal sex.

Another misfortune with eunuchs is that the males in their society recognize them and find them a as a good source of having sex. Not many girls are available and men in our communities are so frustrated that they use the ‘third kind’. If there is a reaction, it is called rape. If they survive, they go through many psychological changes and discover a lot of things. Firstly, they learn that they are attracted to mean and this satisfies their feminine soul. Secondly, they realize that they can have sex like this with a man. This causes a reaction then and they further abuse men in the same manner, they avenge their harassment and take out their aggression. Some, likewise, adopt it as a profession.

After facing the concept of prostitution by eunuchs and transgenders, one is forced to ponder over the fact that who are the people responsible for their sexual abuse? Regarding this question we went to many eunuchs and they said that they are exploited by homosexuals who pick them up from different places and pay them for a one night stand. “It’s the men in uniforms ho exploit us the most”, said another eunuch. “People think we are public property to be used and abused at will. I once resolved to never go with someone I was suspicious of, but that’s hardly a choice, since we can’t fight these men”. One group said, “It’s the policemen who harass us the most, who pick us up at their will, use and abuse us, and snatch away our money”.

Anyone would find this shocking because everyday, we are shouting at the top of our lungs that government should protect them, but how can government take any steps when public servants themselves are corrupt and are encouraging such shameful activities?


Hijras are denied any quota in employment on the basis of their handicap (if it is there) and also deprived of opportunities to take education because of people’s attitude towards them. From our preliminary research, it is evident that few of the hijras are willing to work because of the discrimination that they have been subjected to when they tried to look for employment opportunities. Laila narrates, “I was employed as a servant in one of the houses. Once when I served a glass of water to a guest she refused to take it from me only because I was a hijra and later the owner refused to keep me anymore”. It is thus evident that even if the eunuchs want to work, we do not give them enough employment opportunities. We eliminate them and this stigmatized group of people remains victims to ridicule. Since they are made fun of in schools, at employment and discouraged from working like other individuals, the only options left for the hijras to earn their living are beggary and prostitution. They roam the streets, taking feminish names like Shabnam, Chanda and Laila and beg for money. Sometimes they face dejection and sometimes abuse and exploitation. “We want to be treated like normal human beings. We want to have a voice, be heard”, said Savera, one of the hijras interviewed. “We have emotions too, we feel like all other men and women and we get hurt when people ridicule us”.


We all hold the same notion in our mind. Eunuchs(hijras) bring up misery upon themselves because they believe in earning easy money by begging and by serving as sex workers. What we fail to understand is the fact that we do not leave any option for them. How many of us would be willing to work for and with the hijras? How many of us can provide them with the very right of living without being discriminated? How many of us would be willing to employ them at our work places and treat them like we treat our other work mates? Maybe one or two, or if we become generous, five of us might stand up in their support but minority has no say! We can only kick around, still manage to do nothing. These are questions that have always been unanswered and the very reason why such discrimination has always existed is that even if we have the solution to this problem, we are so small in number that we have no say at all! Some will not even dare propose any solution.


An insight into the lives of these hijras shows that as much as they want to be a part of this society, they are discriminated ever since they are born. According to one hijra Laila, “the journey of discrimination began at home, when at the age of 7, I was subjected to mockery in school, when I began to show signs of feminism”. This discrimination takes a harsh shape when the family decides either to give the child to the eunuch community or when they run off to live with people already living in eunuch community. For most of us it is a sympathetic story of not more than 5 minutes. We feel sorry for them when we hear their tragedy and moments later when we come across one such eunuch in the streets or at some celebration/wedding, we are one of the not so few people making fun of them, laughing and mocking at them.


While all of us have predetermined notions about hijras, they being looked down upon and considered shame and disgrace upon the name of the families they are born in, very few of us know how these eunuchs think and survive in the harsh world of today. Survival in a place where there is nothing but mockery, derogatory remarks and ridicule, is indeed a sad sight. We often see Hijras in streets and other public places, begging for money. Most of these hijras live at the margins of the society with very low status; the very word ‘hijra’ is sometimes used in a derogatory manner. Today, hijras have only three options left for their survival – beggary, blessings and prostitution. Although many hijras get their income from performing at ceremonies, begging or prostitution remain the mostly availed option today. We have all labeled hijras as filthy, vulgar and ridiculous people, yet very few of us know what makes them live such a life.


However, while many of us view hijras as filthy, unwanted people of the society, there are many who do not think the same. One striking effort being made for the recognition and acceptance of such people is by Ali Saleem or more commonly known as Begum Nawazish Ali. As per a site, he is a Pakistani, bisexual, son of a retired Army colonel who likes to dress like a woman and interview celebrities and newsmakers on TV. He’s also South Asia’s first drag queen talk diva, who has made quite a name for himself over the last eight months with his Late Night Show with Begum Nawazish Ali. The show pushes the boundaries of the acceptable – and, critics say, the tasteful – in conservative Pakistani society.
The bottom line is that it’s not all that surprising that a cross-dressing man doesn’t raise too many heckles in Pakistan. Drag queen style isn’t alien to Pakistan or India. Hijras have been around for ages. Besides this information collected from a site, in a personal interview with Ali Saleem, he said “When a single God created you, me and hijras, and when all human beings have equal rights on this earth, why should they be deprived of them? What they are isn’t their fault, it’s the way Allah created them and we should accept them the way they are and should respect them for what they are”.
However, society’s views and opinions contradict. According to one renowned photographer Khawar Riaz, “These hijras should be beaten up wherever encountered because they bring such ridicule upon themselves purposely. Anyone who dresses up like a female yet have physical features like males will always stand out in a crowd and always be subjected to derogatory remarks”. Sympathy, in Khawar Riaz’s opinion, was not the answer. Thus it is difficult to decide how the hijras should be treated in the society. While some of the people are willing to accept them for what they are, many still believe they are alienated members of the society and should remain neglected because they do not deserve sympathy. They have always been ridiculed and there should be no reason why they shouldn’t be treated the same in the future because of their obscene and vulgar actions.
Eunuchs in our society are victims of extreme social ostracism. They are not accepted by their families, their blood relations. They are neither acceptable at work places nor they are allotted any quota in employment. They are also deprived of opportunities to take education as well as health and psychological/ psychotherapeutic assistance. It is up to every single one of us as to how we perceive these hijras to be and what place shall they have in our society in the future and at present. Will the discrimination continue? Would they always remain a stigmatized group? Will our perceptions ever change? These questions remain unanswered…….


People give away alms (wadhai) only because of the fear to avoid their curse and get good wishes. Hijras claim that since they themselves cannot give birth to children, when they bless someone with wishes of childbirth, it is accepted. However, asexuality and certain behavioral patterns such as cracking vulgar jokes, using obscene language and throwing vulgar gestures, induce annoyance, resulting in people harboring negative attitude towards them. Thus by and large, people do not like to interact with them.

Some even believe that children born with sexual deformity should be given away to the hijra community.

Nowadays, the number of zananas in our society is ever increasing. Since they are not accepted by their families, those born in rural areas run away to cities. As a result of this, the number of hijras is ever increasing in cities like Lahore where according to an estimate; there are more than 45,000 hijras. It is the very gestures and at times the vulgar and obscene acts of these hijras that results in people being apprehensive and reluctant in interacting with them. People blame them for homosexuality or sex business. The attitude of people towards hijras, on the basis of preliminary results of our research show that people who believe that they are born hijras have more positive attitude towards the hijra community than the people who believe that they are men behaving like women or both.

The attitude of our society towards hijras is contradictory. “Some accept them, some hate them, many fear them, many are amazed by them, a few like them, many make fun of them, and no one invites them in”. They are considered unclean and only their community members can understand how they feel. “Only a hijra can understand a hijra. Even our family members (blood relations) don’t understand how we feel”, claims Laila. In short, as it is difficult to isolate a genuine hijra (born with sexual deformity) from a convertee’s one, people look down upon the whole hijra community.


Hijras are often encountered in streets, trains and other public places, demanding money from young men. If refused, the hijra may attempt to embarrass the person into giving money, using obscene gestures, profane language and even sexual advances. There are several myths surrounding the hijra community. Hijras are considered dangerous. They are known for bestowing blessings, but they can bestow not only blessings but curses too. The curse of childlessness is wielded as a weapon against anyone who refuses to give them money or makes fun of them.

These hijras perform religious ceremonies at weddings and at the birth of male babies, involving music, singing and sexually suggestive dancing. These are intended to bring good luck and fertility. Although the hijras are most often uninvited, the host usually pays them ‘wadhai’. Many fear the hijras curse if they are not appeased, bringing bad luck or infertility, but for the fee they receive, they can bless goodwill and fortune to the newly born. Hijras are said to be able to do this because since they do not engage in sexual activities, they accumulate their sexual energy which they can use to either ‘bestow a boon or a bane. Of the hijras we interviewed, Humaira narrates, “The notion widely held is that when we curse people, it is accepted by God but we do not curse them very often. We are instructed by our gurus not to curse people except in very extreme because our prayers go directly on arsh; our curses are accepted by Allah”.

Another myth that is known about the hijras is regarding the burial of their dead bodies. While most of the hijras interviewed during the research seemed apprehensive and reluctant to the question relating to the burial of their dead bodies, only one of them talked very briefly about it. According to Saima, (one of the hijras interviewed), the hijras bury their dead bodies at night and not during the day time. This is so because although they bury their dead bodies in the same graveyard where all individuals/Muslims do, it is a widely believed notion that since the hijras cannot give birth to a child, anyone who sees their dead body will tend to suffer from bad luck and infertility for the rest of their life. But according to Humaira, another hijra we interviewed, “When there is only one Quran and only one way of burying the Muslims, why would we have a different burial? Our burial is similar to the burials of any male or female Muslim and it takes place in the morning, evening, anytime.” Thus it is evident that the identity of hijras is fabricated with myths and portrayals that might or might not be true.


We are all familiar with a group of people, dressed in female clothing, wearing heavy make-up, clapping their hands, singing, dancing and at times making vulgar gestures. While most of us see them in the streets, many of us come across them on occasions such as weddings and celebrations of child births. These are no aliens. They are people whose identity is shrouded in myths and false portrayal. While it is true that these are people belonging to the third gender, portraying womanhood in a man’s body, they always remain subject to ridicule, laughter, fun and injustice. Unlike in other parts of the world, the attitude towards hijra in our society is very discriminatory and biased. Hijras are denied health and psychological/psychotherapeutic assistance. Victims of gender identity problem, these hijras carry out castrations without any medical and psychological aid. They indulge in self-remedy which includes taking hormones without prescription, using silicone injections and at extreme, auto-castration. There is no one there to understand them and find solutions to their problems. In short, we, the respected members of the society refuse to respect the hijras taking the very first step towards marginalizing them, only because they are born with sexual deformity. The very next step we take towards not accepting their identity is by giving them away to the eunuch community and adhering to the stereotype that today or tomorrow, they will bring nothing but disgrace to the family.


According to the Jewish scriptures God revealed to prophet Isaiah (peace be upon him) (56: 4-5): "For thus says the Lord: to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument better than sons and daughters, I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off."

The terms that our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) used for male or female transgenders and intersexuals, was derived from one grammatical root and hint to a close relation between both groups. Both terms are derived from the word "khanath" (roughly "hermaphroditism"); "khuntha" describes the intersexual and "mukhannath" the male to female transgender. In general speech both terms were sometimes used interchangeably and popular culture did not seem to discriminate a lot between a khuntha and a mukhannath.

Although the Holy Quran already mentions the fact that it is the entering of the male sperm into the female ovum that defines the chromosomal sex of the embryo and although early Muslims were aware of this, the Ahadith of noble Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) also hint to the idea that the causes for one’s gender identity are established by God later during early pregnancy together with the fate of the person: e.g. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 315: Narrated Anas Ibn Malik:

The Prophet said, “At every womb Allah appoints an angel who says, `O Lord! A drop of semen, O Lord! A clot. O Lord! A little lump of flesh.´ Then if Allah wishes (to complete) its creation, the angel asks, `Will he be male or female, a wretched or a blessed, and how much will his provision be? And what will his age be? ´ So, all that is written while the child is still in the mother` s womb."

The hijras claim that "their society was once known from India to Spain", which was the expansion of the medieval Muslim empire, and older hijras who did the Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) sometimes hint to a close connection between their society and the ancient society of "eunuchs" that guarded the grave of noble Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the sacred mosque in Makkah. In that way one might assume that today’s Muslim hijra communities are the only intact survivors of medieval Muslim "mukhannath" society, while at the same time having local connections to ancient Hindu traditions.


In Pakistani society the khusras are visible as female dressing transgenders and intersexuals who display a special way of behavior. In general their idealized type of behavior would be "ladylike" and, indeed, they usually behave in a very feminine way that they regard as an expression of their "ruh". On the other side they are also allowed to display certain ways of acting that are considered to be "unfitting" for women in traditional Muslim societies. E.g. they might get very loud and aggressive when given offence.


In Urdu, the Persian influenced language of India’s Muslim culture, both mukhannathun and klibas were related to the word "hich", which designated something without a proper place (in this case: in the scheme of two sexes; hich - gah means "nowhere"). The modern word "hijra" probably derived from "hich".


The Hindu side of hijra culture is closely tied to the worship of God in the form of Bahuchara Mata, something that does not have any significance amongst the khusras of Pakistan. However, Muslim hijras in India carry out a certain interreligious respect for the sacred places of Bahuchara Mata. Hindu hijras usually also celebrate Muslim festivals, follow many Muslim customs, often carry Muslim female names and are - like Muslims - buried (although hindus are usually burned) after death. Thus, one can see that the hijra community has its historical roots both in Islam and in Hinduism.


Modern science has found out that gender identity is not a result of one’s upbringing and that it is not a psychological disease (more a physiological - there is a wrong body). No therapy has ever cured any transsexual; many therapies with that goal even ruined the life of the individual completely. A male to female transsexual really has a female self and a female to male really has a male one! But what is the cause for this self? What is the reason for our gender identities?

People usually assume that chromosomes define what we are, but members of many faculties of the medical community did already criticize this popular view. It may be true that in most cases the chromosomes and the gender identity of a person are in accordance with each other, but there are many people - not only transgenders - where this is not the case. Intersexuals - of which the so called "hermaphrodites" are the most well known - are such individuals. Many of them have a composition of chromosomes that are quite unusually (like XXY), there are also cases of intersexual girls who are born with completely female looking genitals, a feminine gender identity and a normal male chromosomal structure (XY). This latter condition is called CAIS (complete androgen insensitivity syndrome) and it may be related to the condition of transgenderism. In the CAIS cases the chromosomal - genetic make up of the embryo is male, but the hormonal developments in the female womb cause the child to "wire" female brain structures. If this condition holds on it also causes the child to develop female looking organs. When growing up these girls usually always define themselves as completely female and they usually are defined as such by outsiders as well.


The issue of transsexuality and transgenderism is an essential issue that may define future attitudes of followers of many religions towards transgendered individuals. Nowadays, the attitude of people towards transgenderism is answered in a quite negative way by many self styled conservative Jews, Christians and Muslims. Usually they assume transgenderism to be some kind of a psychological disorder, something that may be resolved by some kind of psychological treatment. Others feel that these individuals are inferior and filthy because they engage in such activities which we, “normal people”, abstain from. These people obviously don’t have the experience of ever having felt the emotions of a transgendered human. They don’t understand that the feeling of belonging to the gender of the opposite biological sex is so deeply a part of a transsexual’s identity that it is part of the core of his/her inner soul. It is not something that has been learned and it has not the slightest resemblance to a chosen eccentric way of life. It is not a means of luxury for them. In fact, it is a condition with which they have to cope and compromise for the rest of their lives. It is a constant struggle for them.


The world of this stigmatized group of people is as colorful as our world. “Their world has relationships, castes marriages, funeral, crude sex marriages and even a dialect of its own”.

In Lahore there are more than 45,000 registered eunuchs, as reported by the NGO we visited, operating in various areas, a large number of whom live in Heera Mandi (the red light area) while several also live near Shahnoor film studios, Samnabad, Mazang, and other areas. These eunuchs have mainly three categories, the Moorats, the Zinanays, ans Shaitaans or Dhanda Geers. According to the philosophy of Moorat caste, they had a special spirit that makes them behave like women and they adopt a feminine way of life. The Zinanays are transvestites, most of them potent but passive and fond of wearing ladies clothes and applying make up. The Shaitans are self-converted Moorats, not impotent initially, but undergo crude-sex surgery. They undergo surgical castration Nurban. The Dhanda Geers are considered the dregs among eunuchs. They are both potent and impotnt and are only involved in prostitution. The Shaitans have spots in the city where they go for a sex-change operation, somewhat like an illegal abortion. This has always been a highly secret affair and a potentially fatal one, with a mere 20 percent survival rate. Eunuch gurus carry out all such operations. According to our research conducted, we were told that such operations are carried out inside Lohari Gate, Mazang, Qainchi-Chungi, Amer Sidhu, Shahdra and Kamoki. They said an operation costs Rs 15,000 to 20,000 and another Rs 5,000 for medicine. The medicines include high dosage painkillers and sedatives. Eunuchs also have castes, known as dairas. There are two dairas – Mirzaie and Chandni. The Mirzaie eunuchs have lived in Heera Mandi for generations while the Chandni are considered outsiders. The Mirzaie are considered the sacred descendants of Khawaja Sara and domestic servants who had seen the glory in Mughal times.

The top eunuchs of Lahore as reported by the NGO we visited are Hashim, Saima, Gogi, Komal, Ashi, Saleem, Ghora, Reema Jaan and Mehwish.


There are two ways of becoming a hijra. The first is to be born with as an inter-sexual or hermaphrodite, and the second is to be born with a male body but with a feminism gender identity. Most hijras, undergo castration (removal of the testicles). Therefore, traditional hijras today still see ‘the operation’ as the important feature to legitimize one as a “true hijra”. However, today, many hijras do not undergo castration or prefaces hormones, but still regard themselves as part of the hijra community.

People usually dressed in traditional clothes worn by women (shalwar kameez), wearing heavy make ups and high tone colors, emphasis on certain body parts (breasts, hips etc.), exaggerated movements and non verbal gestures including clapping, cracking in decent jokes, vulgar in talk and gestures, indeed these are the stereotype impressions that have developed about the hijras over the ages. Most people make fun of them and call them perverts. These people are subject to laughter, mockery, and ridicule. Yet a serious glance into the lives of these people, show that the struggle I order to exist. These people, who were once the cultural descendants of the courts of the Mughal Empire, now earn their living out of begging, dancing and prostitution.

In Pakistan these hijras live in sizeable communities, divided into clan groups. They live in slums headed by their “Gurus”. Born as boys, they have strong female feeling, some become cross dressers, and others opt for crude surgery (castration). Majority of them leave their families to join eunuch community for their remaining life. The reasons for becoming hijra community are varied. Firstly, it is the very ignorance towards psychological healing of problems in most of the low class families that leads to their children taking shelter in the so called haven of the hijra community. As soon as a child born with sexual deformity begins to show feminish signs or actions, he is alienated from the rest of the family, considered a disgrace on the family and given off to the eunuch community. In other cases, poverty is yet another important reason that forces parents to sell such children to eunuch community.

Eunuchs also marry. A wedding has great significance in the lifestyle of a eunuch. In fact, men often eye eunuchs for marriage at mujras. If a man wants to keep a eunuch like he keeps a female prostitution, he needs to consult the eunuch’s guru. The ceremony takes place at the eunuch’s house and friends of the eunuch participate. The most important ritual of this marriage is the distribution of sweets. The guru picks up a sweet and offers it to the bride and the groom.

Other eunuchs dance, an integral part of the wedding. The dancers are showered with red roses and money. The eunuch-bride wears a red gharara and gold jewellery which the groom brings with him. The guru gives the bride’s hand to the groom and says the magic words, ‘Huqay Tay Huqa, Banda Tujhay Qabool’[1]. The bride and groom both say ‘Qabool Hai’ thrice and the wedding is solemnized. The wedding train then goes to the groom’s house, where he puts a gold ring to his wife.

Some eunuchs pray regularly, but don’t go to mosques. As narrated by Laila, one of our interviewee, ‘We, hijras pray just like all other Muslims. We offer salat, read the Quran and follow Islam like all other Muslims. We are taught all this by our Guru. Though we don’t pray regularly, we do so whenever we get the time’. Eunuchs have their own secret language as well that they use in their business as reported by one of the eunuch we interviewed. The language is close to Persian and is also spoken in Bangladesh and India. For example, they say ‘Karay karo bela hai ga’ or ‘Don’t look at him, the man is rude’.


Although the concept of having eunuchs in courts started in China and Rome, it was only after the Muslim Arabs conquered parts of the Roman Empire that they acquired eunuchs from the Romans, and not knowing what else to do with them, made them into harem guards. They were called ‘Hijra’, which actually refers to what modern westerns would call male-to-female transgender people and effeminate homosexuals. Thus the hijras in Pakistan today have a history rooted back in the Mughal period. They were employed by Mughal rulers as care takers of their harems. They were potent in courts, state affairs and as confidantes of rulers. Their status deteriorated with the devastation of princely rulers and finally fettered to begging. By then, the hijras are considered social outcasts, existing in a strange, and no man’s land. Things have not changed today either. These eunuchs or most commonly known ‘hijras’ or ‘khusras’ are still the most stigmatized group of people in our society.


Gender is a person’s true identity. People recognize you by your gender and every assessment about you and your personality is a result of your gender. It is an anchor and once people decide what you are, they interpret everything you do in the light of that. While sex is the biological component, gender is psychological and social component. The state of being neither male nor female is understood in relation to the individual’s sex, gender, role, gender identity or sexual orientation. However, there are certain conditions in which the biological aspects are in contradiction with the social and psychological aspects of gender. These contradictions give rise to confusion and frustration. This confusion, as we say it, is known as “third sex”. To many cultures and individuals, a third sex may represent an intermediate state between men and women, a state of being both(such as the spirit of a man in the body of a woman), the ability to cross or swap genders or a state of being neither. In the western world lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people have been described as belonging to the third sex or gender.