India: Government objects to Supreme Court ruling creating legal third gender

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Indian government has filed an objection to a court ruling legally recognising a third gender.

In India, transgender people, known culturally as Hijras, often consider themselves to be a third gender which is neither male nor female.


India’s Supreme Court issued a landmark verdict in April, creating a new category that allows transgender people to identify themselves as such on official documents, and recognising them for the first time.

However, the country’s conservative government – which swept to power following an election in June this year – has now raised several objections to the ruling.

It filed papers claiming that the ruling “may pose problems both practically and politically”, and added that it “seeks to create an ambiguity” regarding entitlement to benefits.

India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi insisted the government was not trying to stall the ruling, claiming “we just want clarification”.

However, Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Law Network told the Wall Street Journal: “The government is stonewalling. They had no intention of implementing this judgment.”

Anjali Gopalan of the Naz Foundation added: “Going back on the judgment would be very problematic for the community.”

A census earlier this year found nearly 490,000 people identified themselves as third gender – far higher than previous estimates.

In December last year the Supreme Court reintroduced Section 377 of India’s penal code, banning sex “against the order of nature”, re-criminalising same-sex sexual activity.

The government has not moved to repeal the law.