Tuesday, March 24, 2009


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.

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