''Hijra'' (for translations, see }}
Also known as ''chhakka'' (Kannada, Bambaiya Hindi), ''khusra'' (Punjabi), ''kojja'' (Telugu) and ''ombodhu'' (Madras Tamil).〕}}) is a term used in South Asia – in particular, in India – to refer to transwomen (male-to-female transsexual or transgender individuals). In other areas of India, transgender people are also known as ''Aravani'', ''Aruvani'' or ''Jagappa''.
In Pakistan, the ''hijras'' identify themselves as either female, male or third gender. The term more commonly advocated by social workers and transgender community members themselves is ''khwaaja sira'' () and can identify the individual as a transsexual person, transgender person (''khusras''), cross-dresser (''zenanas'') or eunuch (''narnbans'').
Hijras have a recorded history in the Indian subcontinent from antiquity onwards as suggested by the Kama Sutra period. This history features a number of well-known roles within subcontinental cultures, part gender-liminal, part spiritual and part survival.
In South Asia, many ''hijras'' live in well-defined and organised all-''hijra'' communities, led by a guru.〔"The most significant relationship in the hijra community is that of the ''guru'' (master, teacher) and ''chela'' (disciple)." Serena Nanda, "(The hijras of India ): Cultural and Individual Dimensions of an Institutionalized Third Gender Role", ''Journal of Homosexuality'' 11 (1986): 35–54.〕〔"Hijras are organized into households with a hijra guru as head, into territories delimiting where each household can dance and demand money from merchants". L Cohen, "The Pleasures of Castration: the postoperative status of hijras, jankhas and academics", in Paul R. Abramson, Steven D. Pinkerton (eds), ''(Sexual Nature, Sexual Culture )'', (University of Chicago Press, 1995).〕 These communities have sustained themselves over generations by "adopting" young boys who are rejected by, or flee, their family of origin.〔"None of the hijra narratives I recorded supports the widespread belief in India that hijras recruit their membership by making successful claims on intersex infants. Instead, it appears that most hijras join the community in their youth, either out of a desire to more fully express their feminine gender identity, under the pressure of poverty, because of ill treatment by parents and peers for feminine behaviour, after a period of homosexual prostitution, or for a combination of these reasons." RB Towle, and LM Morgan, "Romancing the Transgender Native: Rethinking the Use of the 'Third Gender' Concept", in S. Stryker and S. Whittle (eds), ''Transgender Studies Reader'', (Routledge, 2006), p. 116.〕 Many work as sex workers for survival.〔
The word "''hijra''" is an Urdu-Hindustani word derived from the Semitic Arabic root ''hjr'' in its sense of "leaving one's tribe,"〔"''hjr'' (main meanings): a) to break with, leave, forsake, renounce, emigrate, flee" Lahzar Zanned, "Root formation and polysemic organization", in Mohammad T. Alhawary and Elabbas Benmamoun (eds), ''Perspectives on Arabic linguistics XVII-XVIII: papers from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Annual Symposia on Arabic Linguistics'', (John Benjamins, 2005), p. 97.〕 and has been borrowed into Hindi. The Indian usage has traditionally been translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite," where "the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition."〔Serena Nanda, ''Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India'', (1999).〕 However, in general hijras are born with typically male physiology, only a few having been born with intersex variations.〔"Among thirty of my informants, only one appeared to have been born intersexed." Serena Nanda, "Deviant careers: the ''hijras'' of India", chapter 7 in Morris Freilich, Douglas Raybeck and Joel S. Savishinsky (eds), ''(Deviance ): anthropological perspectives'', (Greenwood Publishing, 1991).〕 Some Hijras undergo an initiation rite into the hijra community called nirwaan, which refers to the removal of the penis, scrotum and testicles.〔
Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and Western non-government organizations (NGOs) have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of "third sex" or "third gender," as neither man nor woman.〔Anuja Agrawal, "Gendered Bodies: The Case of the 'Third Gender' in India", ''Contributions to Indian Sociology'' (series ) 31 (1997): 273–97.〕 Hijras have successfully gained this recognition in Bangladesh and are eligible for priority in education. In India, the Supreme Court in April 2014 recognised hijra and transgender people as a 'third gender' in law.
Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have all legally recognized the existence of a third gender, including on passports and other official documents.〔Julfikar Ali Manik and Ellen Barry, "A Transgender Bangladeshi Changes Perceptions After Catching Murder Suspects", ''New York Times'', 3 April 2015.〕
== Terminology ==
The Urdu and Hindi word ''hijra'' may alternately be romanized as ''hijira'', ''hijda'', ''hijada'', ''hijara'', ''hijrah'' and is pronounced . This term is generally considered derogatory in Urdu and the word Khwaja Saraa is used instead. Another such term is ''khasuaa'' (खसुआ) or ''khusaraa'' (खुसरा). In Bengali hijra is called ''হিজড়া'', ''hijra'', ''hijla'', ''hijre'', ''hizra'', or ''hizre''.
A number of terms across the culturally and linguistically diverse Indian subcontinent represent similar sex or gender categories. While these are rough synonyms, they may be better understood as separate identities due to regional cultural differences. In Odia language a hijra is referred to as ''Hinjida'',''Hinjda'' or ''Napunsaka'',in Telugu, a hijra is referred to as ''napunsakudu'' (), ''kojja'' () or ''maada'' (). In Tamil Nadu the equivalent term is ''Thiru nangai'' (mister woman), ''Ali'', ''aravanni'', ''aravani'', or ''aruvani''. In Punjabi, both in Pakistan and India, the term ''khusra'' is used. Other terms include ''jankha''. In Gujarati they are called ''pavaiyaa'' (પાવૈયા). In Urdu another common term is ''khwaaja sira'' ().
In North India, the goddess Bahuchara Mata is worshipped by ''Pavaiyaa'' (પાવૈયા). In South India, the goddess Renuka is believed to have the power to change one's sex. Male devotees in female clothing are known as ''Jogappa''. They perform similar roles to hijra, such as dancing and singing at birth ceremonies and weddings.〔Bradford, Nicholas J. 1983. "Transgenderism and the Cult of Yellamma: Heat, Sex, and Sickness in South Indian Ritual." Journal of Anthropological Research 39 (3): 307–22.〕
The word ''kothi'' (or ''koti'') is common across India, similar to the Kathoey of Thailand, although kothis are often distinguished from hijras. Kothis are regarded as feminine men or boys who take a feminine role in sex with men, but do not live in the kind of intentional communities that hijras usually live in. Additionally, not all kothis have undergone initiation rites or the body modification steps to become a hijra.〔Reddy, G., & Nanda, S. (2009). Hijras: An "Alternative" Sex/Gender in India. In C. B. Brettell, & C. F. Sargent, Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective (pp. 275-282). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson - Prentice Hall.〕 Local equivalents include ''durani'' (Kolkata), ''menaka'' (Cochin),〔Naz Foundation International, Briefing Paper 3: Developing community-based sexual health services for males who have sex with males in South Asia. August 1999. (Paper online ) (Microsoft Word file).〕 ''meti'' (Nepal), and ''zenana'' (Pakistan).
Hijra used to be translated in English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite,"〔 although LGBT historians or human rights activists have sought to include them as being transgender.〔 In a series of meetings convened between October 2013 and Jan 2014 by the transgender experts committee of India's Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, hijra and other trans activists asked that the term "eunuch" be discontinued from usage in government documents, as it is not a term with which the communities identify.
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