Saturday, March 04, 2006

Murder in the Hijra Community

It has been a while since I have seen an article about the Hijra community, but this one makes me sad. After so much good news about the community gaining acceptance in India and be able to teach people more about themselves, it seems they are now feeling the backlash of their work.
This article is about a murder that happened to a Hijra by "armed criminals". According to the article this was a shock to the other Hijras in this community because criminals usually leave them alone. This would make sense with their position on the fringe of society. From the other things I have been reading about India, this sad event makes some sense as an eventuality. If there is a positive coming from this, it seems to be pushing the hijra community to stay together and demand the goverenment provide them with the things they deserve. In this case they are demanding police protection.

1 comment:

Tomas Eric Nordlander said...

Legal Hassles and Police Torture is sadly not that uncommon. Below is a extract from Shoma A. Chatterji's essay Eunuchs of India - Deprived of Human Rights, which he received third prize in HumanRightsDefence essay competition.

Yours sincerely,


Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person". Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a party, states: "Every human being has the inherent right to life. Law shall protect this right. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life". Article 4 of the ICCPR states that this right cannot be waived "even in times of public emergency threatening the life of the nation". Unlawful and extra judicial killings clearly contravene the right to life. The Indian government ratified the ICCPR in 1979. By ratifying an international treaty which enshrines the right to life, India is obliged not only to respect that right in principle, but also to ensure it is not violated in practice. The ICCPR imposes a clear duty on states to investigate alleged violations of the right to life "promptly, thoroughly and effectively through independent and impartial bodies.”

What kind of life are these Articles talking about? Isn’t the quality of life more important than its quantity even for people marginalised by the mainstream as the lowest of society where the word ‘human’ is under question? Is it a life of dignity where a person can stand tall with his/head in the skies? Or is it a life of humiliation, insult, oppression and neglect by the family, media and establishment given legitimacy by the legal system? The violence a hijra faces from the police is traced to the 1897 Amendment to the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, subtitled: “An Act for the Registration of Criminal Tribes and Eunuchs,” equating at one stroke, all criminal tribes with eunuchs who are not criminals either by birth or by vocation. Under this law, the local government was required to keep a register of the names and residences of all eunuchs who were “reasonably suspected of kidnappings or castrating children or committing offences under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.” This section is mostly used, or misused, to ‘deal’ with the hijra community as well as homosexuals in India. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal,” even if it is voluntary. The law, which is traced back to colonial ideas of morality, in effect, presumes that a hijra or a homosexual is engaging in “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” this making this entire class of one of the most marginalised communities vulnerable to police harassment, arrest and torture by the police at any given time and place under any excuse.

In a sudden police raid on a Bhandup (a Mumbai suburb) brothel more than 15 years ago, many of the prostitutes were eunuchs. When rounded up and taken to the local police station, they were found to have deep gashes, cigarettes stubbed on their arms, scars of regular beatings and lashings. The police too, are no less. All eunuchs must pay hafta to the police or risk being beaten up. They are rarely employed in regular jobs, though many would like to lead normal lives. They fight among themselves for clothes and money when the time to share the booty comes. They have no grudge against normal human beings because they accept their sexual identity as ‘destiny’, which, as we all know, is not quite true. How can castration be destiny?

After a long struggle, the eunuch community has succeeded in a small measure by convincing the bureaucracy to allow them to enter “E” in forms, data-base sheets and other official documents like passport application forms on the NET in the place where they have to enter their ‘sex’ instead of the routine “M” or “F” which does not apply to them.