07 Is there a Third Gender? - Dr. Jeanette Pingo

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:46 AM ]
Eunuchs or 'hijras' are worthy of our respect and dignity as children of the one True God.

'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth' (Gen 1:2). God the Creator had a beautiful plan to share His joys with life on the planet. After creating the complete environment, He created humankind. "He created man in his own image. In the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27) - just two genders. In India, however, there has, since early times, been a third group called 'eunuchs', or in common parlance, referred to as 'hijras'. Who are these people? Are they a third gender?

Eunuchs are castrated males. They have been in existence since the 9th century BC, according to some references. The word is derived from the Greek "keeper of the bed", because castrated men were in popular demand to guard royal harems. It is believed that this practice began in China, where, at the end of the Ming dynasty, there were as many as 70,000 eunuchs in the grand palace of the Emperor. India, perhaps, is the only country where the tradition of eunuchs is still prevalent today. It is believed that there are about a million of them, but their roles have changed drastically. They are wrongly referred to as the 'Third Gender.'

The Hijras sadly are often feared in society. Nobody wants to be accosted by one of them; to be nudged with their elbows, stroked on the cheek, taunted or cursed. They are truly treated as rejects of society. They cause discomfort and embarrassment and are shunned by people. This forces them, in 21st century India, to make a living by begging, which forms their main source of income. It is customary to have them bless child births, weddings, house warming ceremonies, and other auspicious occasions. People believe that they possess occult powers, and their blessings and curses are both considered potent.

They feel that life has short-changed them, hence their exaggerated behaviour in public. "What have we to lose?" says Sita. "We are treated worse than untouchables. If we overdo this kind of behaviour, we can twist people's arms and make them pay for our sustenance. It's the least society can do for us."

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