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India's top court officially recognised transgender rights today in a landmark ruling.
The supreme court directed the federal and state governments to allow people to identify themselves as outside the binary male/female gender definitions.
The estimated three million transgender Indians will have the same access to welfare programmes for the poor, including education, healthcare and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges.
The court also ordered the government fight the social stigma associated with transgender people through a public awareness campaign.
India’s election commission recently allowed voters to register with their gender as “other” in time for ongoing elections.
Around 28,000 people registered themselves in that category.
The court’s decision applies to individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.
“The spirit of the constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” said the court.
Justice KS Radhakrishnan said that the “recognition of transgender people as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue.
Transgender people “are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights.”
But the court made it clear its ruling didn’t apply to gays, lesbians or bisexuals.
India’s LGBT communities have been up in arms over the court’s support for a colonial-era law banning sodomy. The court said the issue was for parliament to decide.
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