Eunuchs in India



Indians are slowly accepting the existence of sexual minorities in its society. The recent discussion in India on homosexuality and the petitions filed to repeal the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code points to this fact. Sex education is soon going to be a part of curriculum in schools. But the sexual minorities in India are still a struggling lot. Especially the eunuchs or hijras or hijadas or Zenanas or transsexuals or transvestites. They are known by so many names but it all means that they are neither male nor females for the society and are a sexual minority.

Mahabharata, one of the epics of Hinduism, talks about Shikandi, a eunuch. Shikandi was used as shield by Arjuna to defeat Bhisma. Bhisma had earlier taken a vow that he will not find a eunuch. Eunuchs find mention in several ancient Indian texts.

They are also widely mentioned in Indian history, especially as keepers of harem. On close scrutiny of historical data, we find that the eunuchs were being used mostly as prostitutes. Only in rare occasions have they been able to rise above this image.

In modern India, transsexuals are treated with contempt and are mostly looked down by the society. The family of eunuchs disowns them when they come to know about their sexuality. Most transsexuals are forced to leave their home and take shelter in big cities like Mumbai or Chennai. An unfortunate law in India is that eunuchs are not entitled to their father’s property.

The hijras in India find it hard to get a good education. Employment opportunities are very rare. Most public and private companies use several excuses to deny employment. The end result is that they are forced into prostitution.

People who scoff at the hijras during daylight approach them for perverted sex. Most of the eunuchs are forced to offer sexual service to such perverted minds for their daily bread. Most of the hijras end up having various sexually transmitted diseased including AIDS.

In hospitals, they are made to wait endlessly as their sex cannot be determined. Some officials use this precarious situation to create a comic scene in the hospital. All this is happening when there is clear directive that the hijras should be put under female category. The hijras in India are fighting to get the category of hijras in official records.

Eunuchs in India also find it difficult while traveling, especially in buses and other public transport systems. It is better not to talk about the problems they face while using public toilets.

The entertainment industry in India portrays them as a butt of ridicule. They are mostly used in farce situations. Most young children learn about eunuchs through mainstream movies. The only thing they learn from them is that they are something to be joked upon on. It must also be noted here that several movies during the past decade have raised the issue of eunuchs in Indian society.

Police use IPC 377 against eunuchs, which is a section without bail and which can get them a jail term from six months to seven years. A legal petition against this police act is pending in the Supreme Court.

There are several hijras in India who purposefully disturb public to get money. They can be found on roads of major cities and in trains in North India. These hijras do a lot of damage to the image of eunuchs in India.

Majority of the Hijras in India follow the Hindu religion. But little has the Hindu society done for the welfare of Hijras. Most people are not even interested in discussing the issues faced by these sexual minorities.

Educating the eunuchs and accommodating them in the mainstream society is the only solution to end the numerous troubles faced by them. Most of them can be pulled out of prostitution by providing employment. The Hindu society should come forward to accommodate these people with the mainstream society.

It must be noted that nobody purposefully becomes a eunuch they are born like that. A eunuch can be born in any family.