Transgender: Is it a name of fear or sympathy?
Transgender is perhaps the most debated issue. When this issue arises, the entire world becomes divided into two groups- one talks in favor of them while other opposes them. The reason behind this division is their increasing unethical activities. One of such activities is extortion which victimized people living both in urban and rural areas. Three very common types of extortions done by people having common gender have been presented in the form of story below:
Story 1: As soon as a bus of Akik Paribahan stopped at Mirpur 10 traffic signal, two hijras got into it clapping their hands. They did not get into the bus as a passenger to travel to their destination. Their intention was to collect money. Getting into the bus, two started asking money from passengers on both sides while addressing the passengers differently. Lowest amount accepted was Tk. 5. Their language was very polite. But if someone expressed inability to give money, it did not take time to change that language. Even sometimes this verbal abuse leads to physical harassment. That is why, commuters give them money so that they can get rid of public harassment.
Story 2: Retired professor Anisul Haque Chowdhury resides on the third floor of a house situated at road number 11 under sector 10 of Uttara. Last month, relatives came to his house from village. A group of hijras gathered in front of the door of the house on 5 June. They claimed that there was a newborn baby in the house. They have seen the newborn baby’s cloth at balcony. That is why, they will have to be given Tk. 5000. The group of hijras scolded the security guard indecently and entered the house forcefully.
Then they searched all the rooms looking for the newborn child. There was a five-year-old boy of the guests who came to the house of Anisul Haque Chowdhury. That cloth belonged to that child. They said they will have to be given money for that kid. Those hijras started using slang language when they tried to say something about it. They threatened to get undressed. Being embarrassed, Anisul Haque Chowdhury gave them Tk. 500 and requested them to go.
Story 3: A marriage ceremony was going on at Dorikhorbona area in Rajshahi. On Saturday morning, a team of 5-6 hijras went there and demanded Tk. 10,000. But when the owner of that house decline to give in, they started doing indecent behavior. Afterwards, the owner agreed to give them Tk. 1000 to please them, but they did not agree. Finally, he got rid of this problem by paying a little bit more money.
If there is any program at home like the birth of a newborn, marriage ceremony, birthday party, circumcision and any religious festivals, one cannot escape from giving a huge amount of money to hijras. Any deviation from this practice would unleash havoc.
There is no doubt that the above mentioned stories will create negative image about third gender people, but, at the same time, it should have to be mentioned here that they had to choose this path as a means of livelihood because they did not have any other alternative option available for them. Many of them are deprived of basic needs, including education, employment, health care etc. The more pathetic thing is that they are abandoned by their parents and other family members because they are considered social stigma. For this reason, they are called the symbol of harassment, discrimination and hardship.
Hijra in mythologies:
Several stories about ‘Hijra’ have been found both in Greek and Indian mythologies. Two of the wide spread stories related to the topic are given below:
Greek mythology: The word ‘Hermaphrodite’ is the synonym of ‘Hijra’, lexical meaning of it is common gender. The word ‘Hermaphrodite’ has come from ‘Hermes’ and ‘Aphrodite’, two characters of Hellenistic era of Greek mythology. It has been found in mythology that the semi-god of Fountain falls in love with Hermaphrodite, the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite couple. Semi-god prays to the gods so that she can be united with Hermaphrodite forever. The Gods grant her prayer. As a result, a human being is created in the combination of two, having the characteristic of half-male and half-female.
Hindu mythology: Amba is a cursed character in the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. Bhishma takes her away from the ceremony of choosing one’s husband to Hastinapur to get her married with his brother Vichitravirya. He released Amba when he came to know about Amba’s affection for Salva. On the other hand, Salva refused to accept Amba. Having been rejected by her beloved, she unleashed the blame on Bhishma and vows to destroy him. Shiva became pleased and gave her the boon that in her next birth Amba will be born a transgender, named Shikhandi, and be the cause of Bhishma’s destruction. Carrying out the cursed life of mythological character, Amba, are her successors- today’s hijras.
Role of hijras during the Mughal period:
Hijras were very faithful servant to the Mughal rulers. For their unique sexual identity, hijras had free access to the female section of the palace. For this reason, they used to guard the most valuable women of Herem and took care of their children with trust. They were so faithful that they performed many secret responsibilities on behalf of the Emperor; they were the only one, other than the Emperor, who had the permission to stay during the birth of the children. Hijras never betrayed. If they would trust anyone once, they kept it till the last day of their lives. So they were the safest workers during the Mughal era.
What is hijra in medical science?
Today, determining the sex of the fetus is possible, but it was not, at all, prior to the nineteenth century. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, researches on chromosomes met with incredible success following years of efforts from medical scientists. Thus, it is possible to determine the gender of a newborn beforehand. Sometimes it is not possible to pre-determine the gender of the child because of abnormal chromosomal association. According to doctors, this child is hijra.
Social position of hijra:
The accurate information regarding the advent of hijra in this world is not known. But according to anthropologists, hijras existed in this world ever since there was human existence. Transgender people in the West are assimilated into the mainstream society, but it is not same in our country. They are considered a forbidden class in our society.
There is no accurate statistics regarding the number of total hijras in Bangladesh at present. It is assumed they exist in varying numbers in almost all the districts. Information collected from different organizations of hijras suggests the existence of more than one hundred thousand hijras in Bangladesh. They are born like any normal children. But, they begin to realize their abnormalities while growing up. It brings mental pain for them resulting in an informal distance from their family. Afterwards, they leave their parents and take shelter under the tutelage of Guruma (the leader of hijras). Everyone addresses Guruma as mother, and all of her pupils become like her children. Thus, a family comes into existence under the wings of a Guruma.
Ranks of Hijras:
Hijras call the Guru of their Guruma grandmother, other hijras of the same age as Guruma aunt, and their fellow hijras sister. A new member upon entrance into the group gets to learn from Guruma how to dance, sing, play drums, other behavioral patterns including how to clap etc. This way, a new member becomes a full member of the team. Residents in the hijra community speak in their own language. Though they speak in Bengali, they speak in their internal language where the questions of fear, confidentiality and strategy arise. No specific history regarding the grammar less hijra language was found. But still they have retained their language tradition.
Income source of Hijras:
Until recently it was a common sight that a group of hijras clad in colorful dress comes to the house of a newborn child. They would sing to the beating of drums. It was believed that hijras performing singing and dancing would be a blessing for the newborn. They would bless the child by applying oil on its hair. This old tradition has changed with time. The current generation of hijras does not hold on to their tradition, for they have been forced to change the course of their income for the sake of a living.
Currently they are earning in different ways- collecting money from bazaar, performing singing and dancing at social programs, working as ‘extras’ in films, acting, working in factories, working as house servant, doing jobs in NGOs, working as chef, performing dance in brothel, and many more way. Some of them even get involved in prostitution and smuggling.
Hijra is the synonym of inhuman negligence. It is because we the people of civilized society have never acknowledged this community. Even then, it has to be said that hijras are human beings too. Like us, they also have basic needs. Government authorities will have to take right initiatives to rehabilitate them properly. Special type of card can be arranged for hijras for health care. If separate education program is introduced for them, they will have smooth access to education without feeling even the slightest of inhibition. Then the educated hijras will then try themselves to get back into the mainstream society.
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