Good news for transgender individuals in India, who identify themselves as part of the 3rd sex instead of falling into the male/female gender binary, as the government issues the Aadhaar card. Originally the cards would only permit citizens to label themselves as male or female based on the biological sex characteristics they were born with.
In India and Pakistan, members of the third gender are called hijras. The word “hijra” does not specify a member’s specific sexual orientation, but instead connotates a renunciation of sexuality which allegedly results in the hijras being given sacred powers. In reality, sadly, most hijras become prostitutes and live at the margins of modern society. Many hijras get make money from performing at ceremonies or begging. Violence against members of the third gender is widespread and often condoned and even enacted by local police. Hijras face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law, and any bureaucracy that is unable to place them into male or female gender categories.
The Aadhar card gives members of the “third gender” the ability to be recognized by the government, and to maintain their own gender identity. The AADHAAR program began in February of 2009, and provides a unique identification number to all Indians. The card also contains biometric data on its holder. It is believed that Unique National IDs will help address the rigged state elections and widespread embezzlement that affects subsidies and poverty alleviation programs.