The Supreme Court of India [official website] issued a ruling [opinion, PDF] on Tuesday recognizing the country’s large transgender population as a legal third gender. In so ruling, the court ordered that the government ensure that transgender people are not discriminated against and are eligible for government jobs and education in the same way as it does with other minority groups. It also ordered that the government take steps to promote awareness and to ensure that they are provided with proper medical treatment and public facilities. The landmark two-judge ruling acknowledged the history of marginalization that transgender individuals have faced. “Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” the opinion stated. India has a long cultural history of recognizing transgender individuals, but their lack of legal recognition has led to discrimination, including prevalent hate crimes.
The rights and identity of transgender individuals is a topic of debate throughout the world. The Thirteenth Texas Court of Appeals [official website] in February overturned [JURIST report] a lower court’s ruling retroactively voiding a transgender widow’s marriage. Earlier that month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] alleging that European countries are violating the rights of transgender individuals, requiring invasive surgery or sterilization to change their legal status. In January, the Maine Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that an elementary school had violated the rights of a transgender student when they refused to allow her to use the girls’ bathroom. The political action group Privacy for All Students [advocacy website] in November stated [JURIST report] that they have received enough signatures to bring a referendum in 2014 to challenge a California law protecting transgender public school students.