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India's Third Gender

Miguel Candela | Bangalore and Delhi, India

“It is an inseparable part of our lives.“ says Sanjana, one of the transvestites who regularly see Deepshikha center. This man, who feels female, has a double life. Away of the household, she is a charming woman who prostitutes, but within, she is a dedicated father. "I was not brave enough to face the consequences that would have bought to me if I had become a 'hijra', although I feel like a woman," she admits.

When he was 9, he started playing female roles at her school theater performances. He did so well that he was paid to do the same roles in other centers. At 14, s
he was getting paid for other kind of services. "I like men, so when I was offered money for sex, I accepted". No one in her family knew or knows about Sanjana's secret life.

When her parents arranged her marriage to a woman, Sanjana did not reject the union. Now, she has four children who loves and adores. "When I have to make love to my wife, I need to force an erection and I think in the ass of a friend," says while giggling.

Known to provide good luck in religious ceremonies, the 'hijra' -term known in India to men who are castrated but who do not complete the sex change process- transvestites and transgenders also face the inflexibility of a society that condemns them and suffer police abuse, begging and prostitution, often under the control of mafias. They belong to the social group most discriminated in India.

A primary reason of the exclusion is the lack of legal recognition of the gender status of the Hijras and other transgender people. It is the major obstacle that often prevent them in exercising their rights. Society denies them of employment which leads them to prostitution and begging.

The blessing of a 'hijra' is considered necessary for newborns and newlyweds to succeed. These services are paid well but not as much as sex. Hence, most of them prefer to sell their bodies on the streets. The 'hijras' prostitutes suffer a high prevalence of HIV and syphilis. They are a weak and easy target unbacked by society.

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