Hijra is a culture-specific identity found in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. It is a separate identity from man and woman, and also separate from the concept of transgender.[1] In most cases, Hijras are individuals who were assigned male at birth and have a feminine presentation,[2][3] but may also include individuals who are intersex or assigned female at birth as well.[1] Hijras may or may not undergo surgery to transition.[3][4]

During British rule of India, Hijras were criminalized and discriminated against as part of the Criminal Tribes act of 1871. They were decriminalized in 1952, but stigmatization against Hijras continued for some time afterwards.[2] In 2014, Hijras gained official government recognition as a separate gender in India.[1][4][5]

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Religion and beliefs

Most Hijras are assigned male at birth or intersex, and participate in a ceremony to remove their genitalia in worship of the Hindu goddess "Bahuchara Mata".[3] Many Hijras are expected to performs songs, dances and blessings at both Hindu weddings and births. To many Hindus, a Hijra's blessings to a baby will transfer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. Hijras are granted immense religious power, seeing as they have donated a part of themselves to one of the holy Hindu goddesses. With that power, it is believed that a Hijra can also curse a family if they refuse to offer payment for the blessings or are disrespectful.[1][3][4]

General history

Historically and culturally, Hijras are based in Hinduism and they perform solely for Hindus; however, not all Hijras will follow orthodox Hinduism, and may instead be of Muslimm or Christian faith. Some Hijras follow the beliefs and principles of both Hinduism and Islam, and may base their community around the Hindu goddess Bahuchara Mata while also taking an Arab or Islamic name and observing Islamic traditions such as Al-Hijra, or Ramadan.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "The Hijra Community and Decolonizing Gender" (2021-06-24). Asian Indian Family Wellness SEWA-AIFW. (Archived on February 2, 2022).
  2. 2.0 2.1 "A Map of Gender-Diverse Cultures" (2015-08-11). PBS. (Archived on April 24, 2022).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Rhude, Kristofer: "The Third Gender and Hijras" (2018). (Archived on March 26, 2022).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 McCarthy, Julie: "A Journey Of Pain And Beauty: On Becoming Transgender In India" (2014-04-18). NPR. (Archived on October 2, 2021).
  5. Phillip Baumgart and Shariq Farooqi: "India’s hijras find themselves further marginalized amid the pandemic" (2020-07-17). Atlantic Council. (Archived on May 5, 2022).