Economics and Third Gender

By Sukanya Mishra, GNLU

Editor’s Note: This paper deals with the discrimination faced by transgenders in terms of job opportunities. The main reason for such widespread discrimination is lack of awareness and acceptance. The other reason form on this and make a vicious cycle which traps the third gender and restricts them from getting jobs.

“We are sparrows of paradise, and they don’t like us.” says Noor a 21 year old member of the third-gender community or hijras as they are commonly referred to in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.1

The hijras were highly respected throughout history. They were appointed as royal advisors and as guards of important places such as the queen’s quarters. They were also used as messengers between men and women, entertainers and prostitutes. They were considered to have special powers granted by God in order to make up for their inability to procreate, and thus they were also associated with saints during the Mughal period. However, with the arrival of the Britishers the condemnation as well as discrimination towards the hijras became widespread.

This trend continues even today. Thus we see that very few of them are granted equal rights and opportunities. This leaves them with limited means of livelihood. In South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. they earn money by singing and dancing at weddings, childbirth, housewarming and other family functions.

‘They frequently show up uninvited and refuse to leave unless paid. Many in this conservative society believe hijra have a direct line to God, a trade-off for their inability to procreate. So even as society has ostracized them, it’s also paid them amply, fearful of their curses, taunts and, in extreme cases, public display of genitalia at celebratory events.’2 However, with an increasing urban trend people have no more faith in the supernatural faith of the hijras. This leaves the community with either begging or becoming a sex worker to earn their livelihood.

The situation is similar even in western Columbia in the United States of America employment discrimination on the basis countries. Only 16 states and District of have employment laws that explicitly ban of gender identity.3 Also, termination of employees based on gender identity remains legal in 39 states.4 In 2009, a transgender woman, Andre Edwards, was terminated from her job as a cab driver for wearing nail polish and skirts to work.5

The main reason for such widespread discrimination is lack of awareness and acceptance. The other reason form on this and make a vicious cycle which traps the third gender and restricts them from getting jobs. Being bullied at school, leads a lot of third gender children to drop out. Their families instead of supporting them reprove their choice of living and sometimes drive them out of home. Without family support, education or fair chance for a job, they are often forced to take up begging and prostitution. Even if they do get jobs, they are often driven out when their identity is revealed or due to discrimination shown by colleagues.

In the past few years this community has raised their voice and it seem this time it was finally heard. With countries like Australia, Germany, India and New Zealand allowing the provision of a third gender in passports, birth certificates etc. their recognition becomes more prominent. Nepal Governments’ step to recognize third gender on citizen certificates will help them in getting employment opportunities. Blue Diamond Society, founded by Sunil Babu Pant, the first openly gay member of Nepal’s Parliament, provides job opportunities to 750 third gender people and training in cosmetology, computers, cooking, mechanics, etc.6

The Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative in the U.S.A helps third-gender people find and keep good jobs in safe workplaces.7 M. Nikkila of Tamil Nadu started training eunuchs to give beauty therapy. The kathoeys of Thailand find increasing job opportunities in entertainment, business and sales and fashion industries.Nong Tum a third gender Thai boxer is an example showing acceptance of the third gender into sports.

Edited by Hariharan Kumar

1. Mark Magnier, “A small victory for Pakistan’s Transgender.” Los Angeles Times, March 03, 2010., accessed March 15, 2014

2. Melissa Dunn and Aisha Moodie-Mills, “The state of gay and transgender communities of color in 2010” ., accessed March 15, 2014.

3., accessed March 15, 2014.

4. Guy Patrick, “Fare lady cabbie ‘fired for sex swap’ ”, The Sun, June 03, 2009,

5. Usha KC, “Citizenship for third-gender Nepalese Expands Job prospects for sex workers”, The Global Press Journal, January 29, 2013,

6., accessed March 15, 2014

7. Ayesha Hoda, “The third gender”, S A Global Affairs,

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