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For other uses, see Hijra (disambiguation).

Hijras, (Hindi: हिजड़ा, Urdu: ہِجڑا‎, Bengali: হিজড়া, Kannada: ಹಿಜಡಾ, Telugu: హిజ్ర Punjabi ਹਿਜੜਾ Oriya: ହିନ୍ଜଡା), also known as chhakka in Kannada and Bambaiya Hindi, khusra (ਖੁਸਰਾ) in Punjabi, kojja in Telugu and ombodhu in Madras Tamil is a term used to refer to individuals in India, South Asia who are transsexual or transgender. Transgender people are also known as Aravani, Aruvani or Jagappa in other areas of India.

It is a common misconception among South Asians that hijras are "only men who have feminine gender identity, adopt feminine gender roles and wear women's clothing". In reality, the community is significantly more diverse.

In Pakistan, the hijras identify themselves as either female, male, or third gender. The term more commonly advocated by social workers and transgender community members themselves is 'khwaaja sira' (Urdu: خواجه سرا‎), and can identify the individual as a transsexual person, transgender person (khusras), cross-dresser (zenanas) or eunuch (narnbans).

Hijras have a recorded history in the Indian subcontinent, from antiquity, as suggested by the Kama Sutra period, onwards. This history features a number of well-known roles within subcontinental cultures, part gender-liminal, part spiritual, and part survival.

In South Asia, many hijras live in well-defined and organized all-hijra communities, led by a guru. These communities have sustained themselves over generations by "adopting" young boys who are rejected by, or flee their family of origin. Many work as sex workers for survival.

The word "hijra" is a Urdu-Hindustani word derived from the Semitic Arabic root hjr in its sense of "leaving one's tribe," and has been borrowed into Hindi. The Indian usage has traditionally been translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite," where "the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition." However, in general hijras are born with typically male physiology, only a few having been born with male intersex variations. Some Hijras undergo an initiation rite into the hijra community called nirwaan, which refers to the removal of penis, testicles and scrotum.

Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and Western non-government organizations (NGOs) have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of "third sex" or "third gender," as neither man nor woman. Hijras have successfully gained this recognition in Bangladesh and are eligible for priority in education. In India, the Supreme Court in April 2014 recognised hijra and transgender people as a 'third gender' in law.


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