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Supreme Court says eunuchs must be treated as 3rd gender, given rights

New Delhi, Apr 15 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday recognised eunuchs as the third category of gender and directed the Union and state governments to grant them all facilities including voter identification cards, passports and driving licences.

The Union and state governments were also directed to take steps for bringing the community into the mainstream by providing adequate healthcare, education and employment.

A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and A K Sikri directed the government to take steps for granting recognition to transgender people as a separate third category of gender after male and female.

The bench also said they are the citizens of the country and have equal rights to education, healthcare and employment opportunities like other people belonging to male and female gender.

The bench clarified that its verdict pertains only to eunuchs and not other sections of society such as gay, lesbian and bisexuals, who are also considered under the umbrella term 'transgender'.

The apex court expressed concern over transgender people being harassed and discriminated in the society and passed a slew of directions for their social welfare.

The apex court said that transgender people were respected earlier in the society but situation has changed and they now face discrimination and harassment.

It said the police and other authorities are misusing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code against them, and their social and economic condition is far from satisfactory.

The bench said they are part and parcel of the society and the government must take steps to bring them in the main stream of society.

The apex court passed the order on a public interest litigation filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) urging the court to give separate identity to transgender people by recognising them as third category of gender.

Welcoming the Supreme Court decision, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, transgender rights activist said, “the progress of the country is dependent upon human rights of the people and we are very happy with the judgment as the Supreme court has given us those rights.”