Issues Faced by Transgender and Evolution in India
Aastha Thakur 6 Oct 2021

Issues Faced by Transgender and Evolution in India

Transgender people have their imprint in cultures worldwide since the early civilization times. In many Sumerian texts on the transgender priests known as gala were discovered. In the pre colonization era in Americas many indigenous cultures where the third gender were given ceremonial importance. Indian history also has diverse range of religious communities where the very concept of Hijras and other Trangenders have been recognised in ancient history. The Hindu sacred epic Ramayana and Mahabharata provides the reliable existence of the third gender becoming the integral part of the ancient texts. Even assigned to highly respected role as political advisors, administrator, spies as well as guardian of the harems in royal courts of the Mughal empire in medieval India. Then why still they are considered as social outcasts and denied basic necessities in modern time. The for such condition, the society is directly or indirectly responsible.[1]

The name Transgender came from Greek meaning “keepers of the bed”. The WHO defines the “transgender” (also refer as TG people) as an umbrella term which differs from general presumption towards stereotypical gender norms set by society. Transgender refers to those community whose internal sense of gender is incongruent or different from the one assigned to them at birth. Individuals whose recognition is something related to gender identity and appearance not physical sex characteristics & sexual preferences. Many of them are even reluctant to accept who they are due to shame, society morals influence, losing family support etc. thus face legal, social as well as economic difficulties.

A study says the estimated transgender diverse individuals varies between 0.1% and 2% of the population depending on the inclusion criteria. In India, itself the first official count for census of third gender was around 4.9 lakh in 2011.

But still, being such major part of the population, the society so called stereotypes not find them respected and deserving candidate to get treated as normal human being. In India these people are struggling to survive and to take stands for themselves. Although its true, things have turn around by the introduction of government laws & policies. Its has become challenge for them to break the long-lived stereotypes and gender-norm established by the society. These community are still experiencing the challenges to overcome the socio-economic culture and fight for their right in the constitution. 

As the wordings goes, one step forward, two steps back; eradication of deep-rooted situation is not so easy. Amelioration of society mind-set, providing sufficient access to education and work opportunity, access to public health policies is some of the pressing matters needs to be address for the betterment of the TG people. They are prone to discrimination, social stigma and generally have a traumatic life. Forced to live in the margins of society leads to number of violence committed against transgender. The discrimination and harassment faced by them mostly is due to the backward thinking of the people in society where third gender doesn’t fit in their reserved societal norms. Hence, there are many hurdles for transgender community to overcome with. Our constitution thrives to give equal equality rights to all citizens of India.

An American psychiatrist by name John F. Oliven was the one to coined the term “Transgender” in 1965 in his reference work called Sexual Hygiene & Pathology. In India, these individuals are addressed as hijras and aravanis by society. Since before 1800s the transgenders facing inequality and discrimination. The way how they appear or behave are often ridicule in the society and even in school they are not consider as the member of the community. The inequality stances do not end here, the extremeness of the level can be deduced when put into dilemma which bathroom to use and in which ward, they can get admitted for treatment. No doubt, the Hon’ble Court accepts their legal rights and identity, still social and legal scenario is way more different in reality.


Trans people share similar health needs as the general population, but may have other specific health related issues, such as gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery. The WHO/Europe acknowledge the fact that the trans community often experience a disproportionately high burden of disease, including domains of mental, sexual and reproductive health. The major barriers to health care access transphobia & discrimination. Globally, the discrimination against transgender people had given rise to the term “transphobia” – with dislike or bias against transgender people.

These communities are facing social exclusion in hospital forced to schedule their early mornings check-ups -when there are few patients in the hospital. In extreme biasness cases the doctors refused to even examine them causes distress for T-gender people. The vilification of transgender in health care has in fact became norm where the doctors exploit them. The patients also not make it easy for them, as female cohorts not feel comfortable enough to share their ward with transgender patient and male patients not make it any easier for them harassing and annoying them for who they are. Thus, health care has not been helpful in this cause, many incidents came forward where transgender people are harassed by the doctors and ward in-charge, sticking out as major setback in medical line.

Many transgenders are facing gender dysmorphia an internal confliction between the gender assigned at birth and gender later on they identify or adapt into. This can cause emotional and mental distress. Apart from that while transitioning. the intake of hormonal pills or drugs to achieve masculine or feminine effects carry risks like low or high blood pressure, cancer, liver damage and heart conditions. The much-needed awareness in society for eradication of the social stigma and labelled as social out caste is required. There is utmost need for social acceptance of transgender group.

Due to lack of education, these individuals are forced to work as sex workers, thus increasing the high-risk of HIV. Most of the sexually transmitted diseases can be fatal and can affect people no matter what their sexual orientation is. Such patients often experience hurdles receiving appropriate medical treatment due to lack of access to healthcare and sometimes due to increased poverty among this population. Many transgenders have strongly endorsed the demand of separate wards in hospitals, which has been further directed by various HCs which is still needed to be implemented by the state governments.

Alcohol & drug abuse is common among the transgender community. Around 37% of 300 transwomen consumes alcohol once a week. Reasons for this are prevalence of discrimination, depression and anxiety they face on every single steps. All these also contribute to their suicidal nature that affects suicide ideation or actual attempts.

The society need to understand that identification as transgender is not mental health, instead of medical treatment they should be treated psychiatrically. The World Health Organization has also removed the so-called “gender identity disorder” from its manual of diagnosis, a major win for transgender rights. Such reclassification can be a catalyst for countries to recognise and adopt strong proactive measures to eradicate the social stigma against transgenders.


The education is the tool to make one self-efficient and independent in process. However, discrimination in education against Transgender students is increasing more and more and it’s becoming challenging to deal with. Being deprived of social and cultural participation they have restricted access to education and employment opportunities. Most of the transgender, dropout of school because of the harassment and discrimination they face. The general survey conveys that around 50 to 60 percent of transgenders never even attend schools under fear of discrimination and apprehension of being ridiculed.

Article 21-A confers rights to education to transgenders persons yet the pragmatic aspects tell different story.  In many cases, they are even forced to drop out by their own parents forcing them to beg on traffic signals. Its topic of worry, that in 21st century the families avoid to accept their child is transgender and ignore him/her. Furthermore, upon facing exclusion from both school and family they are forced to take low income or undignified work for livelihood like badhaias, sex workers and begging. Being pushed to survive through begging and dancing is again looked down by the dichotomous attitude of society.


The workplace for the transgenders has number of issues and they experience ousted in the such atmosphere. The reported rates of harassment and discrimination in the workplace claimed to have directly harassment or mistreatment at work. At many workplaces they are restricted to use restrooms as not being consistent with gender identity or segregate them to use gender-neutral bathroom sometimes make them feel scare for their physical safety contributing to the discriminating behaviours. Many of the transgender feel pressure to obscure their identity or transition potentially limiting their career progress. These makes the matter worse as many transgenders employees faces anxiety, depression issues. There is need of stringent anti-discrimination policies at all workplace in the public and private sector and establish these policies should be made transgender inclusive to ensure there is no misuse of the benefits granted to them.


While in other countries, the awareness social movements were flourishing until recently the colonial law of India has criminalized the homosexuality under Section 377 of the IPC. It was the time of 1990s where India did see important socio-political shifts as an array of human rights programs and intervention led by gender minority rights or organization demands the gender equality rights. The government in 1994 gave the right of voting to transgenders. Despite this, their community got its legalized rights only recently. The decade of 2000s, brought the wind of change through HIV awareness programs increasing the engagement of gender and sexual minority-led organizations, channelling the social movements demanding social change and legal privileges.

In April 2008, the first state recognized board The Transgender Welfare Board was set up in Tamil Nadu the model of progressive development.[2] It objective mainly addresses the social protection issues suffered by TG people on daily life basis. On the historical day of April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court of India passed judgement recognising a third gender a neither male nor female, entitled to the reservation quota in education and jobs opportunities.[3] Whereas in 2018 SC unanimously decriminalises Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises the consensual unnatural sex found to be against the right to equality.[4] The minority community have even got legal protections through sanction of the Transgender Protection of Rights Bill by the Parliament in 2019. Herein, the transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender post-sex reassignment surgery under legislation passed in 2019.

Recently, the ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the National Portal for Transgender Persons in consonance with the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020 making it easy to apply for their identity card and certificates. The government has also taken stringent action against any kind of violence against transgender persons which are punishable with imprisonment of up to 2 years. Under the provisions of the Transgender Bill, 2019 the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, has constituted the National Council for Transgender Person as advisory body for policy making affecting Transgenders community.

Unfortunately, the significance of the trans pride has not been considered in the bill. The new legislation bill undoes all the progress made by the transgender community over the past few years. The bill goes against the right to dignity and bodily autonomy privilege to trans people.[5] In layman word, getting an ID is tedious entails screening process which totally violates the human rights. It has also criminalized the act of begging without giving any alternatives solutions of sustenance to the community. Its is just bill prepared in haste undermining the rights of the transgenders individuals it seeks to protect.

The government need to re-evaluate their policies concerning trans-people assuring the social protection, providing access to basic amenities, housing, and health facilities and provisions for education and employment. The Karnataka State Policy for Transgenders, 2017 addresses these issues providing schemes and programmes created for its efficient working. The Policy however is stepping stones in this arena which should be act as a catalyst aspiring other state governments.


Its long run to the full inclusion of TG people in society, government need to implement stigma and discrimination reduction measures to ensure they are not victimized neither at school nor by society itself. The government-run facilities should be made available for the Transgender Community in healthcare areas, employment status and their upliftment in social status. Its upto government to bring in policy to ensure they are not discriminate against they could enjoy equal rights like any other citizens of India.

It is time we stop this century old stereotypes, working & helping those transgenders legally recognising and passing bills for their betterment in society providing equal opportunities at all spheres. We as one can achieve and realise this dream of “let live and let one live”.

[1] Historical Evolution of Transgenders Community in India by Michelraj. M ISSN No: 2230-7850

[2] Journal of Social Work Education and Practice [ISSN: 2456-2068]

[3] National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India W.P. (civil) No. 604 of 2013

[4] Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. v. Union of India (AIR 2018 SC 4321)

[5] The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019

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