There are approximately 50, 000 to 1.2 million eunuchs in India. The community is hated by society and they are forced to lead a pathetic life. However, it also is true that these eunuchs victimise and harass other people to extort money.
Currently, there are approximately 50, 000 to 1.2 million hijras in India. Ostracized since birth, they are forced to create a marginalised community of their own, to live at the fringes of society. This marginalisation does not ’just happen’. It is done by all of us ‘normal’ people, daily.
As children, we indoctrinate the belief that all hijras are evil, that they kidnap kids and are harbingers of everything bad. This is the belief that we carry with us as adults and teach to the next generation. This way, generation by generation, the hijras remain outcasts, shunned by society. A family retains its ‘izzat’ (honour) by not letting a hijra into its household and by just not having anything to do with them. This shunning is not because there is anything wrong with the hijras themselves. It is more because the society finds it hard to accept ‘otherness’ and is willing to cling to the stifling Victorian laws and beliefs.
But then, to see eunuchs as ‘different’ is a form of discrimination itself. They are human beings. Given a chance, I am sure they will do well in any vocation and contribute positively to the society. Given a chance, they will be as good neighbours as the ones we currently have. But only if they are given a chance.
But, to go over to the other side of the fence, it is also true that most hijras are not willing to fight for what is their right. Like us, since birth they are also instilled with the belief that there is something wrong with them. They grow up believing that they are indeed not ‘normal’ and that their ostracizing is correct, if not fair.
Since they do not also end up having respect for themselves, they do not fight for the severe injustice meted out to them. The fact that they will never be able to own property, take up a normal job, live with society is swallowed like a bitter pill. They end up becoming the stereotypes they in reality are not, for the sole purpose of surviving.
Since the society is unwilling to give them any respectable means of livelihood, they resort to blackmail and extortion. But then, it is harassment as well. Anyone who cannot afford to pay them is harassed.
It seems that the hijras have become comfortable with their position as outcasts as long as they get the money (though I believe the policemen also take a lion’s share). It is for us to help them get rid of their lethargy and help them access what is rightfully theirs. And as for us, we sure could with a little opening up of our minds.