SC landmark judgment recognising transgenders as a third gender.


Court :
Supreme Court of India

Brief :
The bench comprising of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice A.K. Sikri in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) seeking the recognition of transgenders as a third gender held that transgenders are to be recognised as a third gender and are entitled to the same rights as any other citizen of the country. The Court issued the following directions: ''We, therefore, declare: (1) Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as “third gender” for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the Parliament and the State Legislature. (2) Transgender persons’ right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld and the Centre and State Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender. (3) We direct the Centre and the State Governments to take steps to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and extend all kinds of reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments. (4) Centre and State Governments are directed to operate separate HIV Sero-survellance Centres since Hijras/ Transgenders face several sexual health issues. (5) Centre and State Governments should seriously address the problems being faced by Hijras/Transgenders such as fear, shame, gender dysphoria, social pressure, depression, suicidal tendencies, social stigma, etc. and any insistence for SRS for declaring one’s gender is immoral and illegal. (6) Centre and State Governments should take proper measures to provide medical care to TGs in the hospitals and also provide them separate public toilets and other facilities. (7) Centre and State Governments should also take steps for framing various social welfare schemes for their betterment. (8) Centre and State Governments should take steps to create public awareness so that TGs will feel that they are also part and parcel of the social life and be not treated as untouchables. (9) Centre and the State Governments should also take measures to regain their respect and place in the society which once they enjoyed in our cultural and social life.''

Citation :
Queen Empress v. Khairati (1884) ILR 6 All 204 Suresh Kumar Koushal and another v. Naz Foundation and others [(2014) 1 SCC 1] Corbett v. Corbett (1970) 2 All ER 33 R v. Tan (1983) QB 1053 Attorney-General v. Otahuhu Family Court (1995) 1 NZLR 603 Re Kevin (Validity of Marriage of Transsexual) (2001) Fam CA 1074 ...

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.400 OF 2012

National Legal Services Authority                  … Petitioner

Versus

Union of India and others                         … Respondents

WITH

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.604 OF 2013

K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.

J U D G M E N T

1. Seldom, our society realizes or cares to realize the trauma, 

agony and pain which the members of  Transgender  community 

undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the 

Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body 

disown their biological sex.  Our society often ridicules and abuses 

the  Transgender  community  and  in  public  places  like  railway 

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stations,  bus  stands,  schools,  workplaces,  malls,  theatres, 

hospitals,  they  are  sidelined  and  treated  as  untouchables, 

forgetting  the  fact  that  the  moral  failure  lies  in  the  society’s 

unwillingness to contain or embrace different gender identities and 

expressions, a mindset which we have to change.

2. We are,  in this case,  concerned with the grievances of  the 

members of  Transgender  Community (for  short  ‘TG community’) 

who seek a legal declaration of their gender identity than the one 

assigned to them,  male or  female,  at  the time of  birth and their 

prayer  is  that  non-recognition  of  their  gender  identity  violates 

Articles 14 and 21 of  the Constitution of  India.    Hijras/Eunuchs, 

who also fall in that group, claim legal status as a third gender with 

all legal and constitutional protection.   

3. The National Legal Services Authority, constituted under the 

Legal  Services Authority Act, 1997, to provide free legal  services 

to the weaker and other marginalized sections of the society, has 

come forward to advocate their cause,  by filing Writ  Petition No. 

400  of  2012.   Poojaya  Mata  Nasib  Kaur  Ji  Women  Welfare 

Society,  a registered association, has also preferred Writ Petition 

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No.  604  of  2013,  seeking  similar  reliefs  in  respect  of  Kinnar 

community, a TG community.

4. Laxmi Narayan Tripathy, claimed to be a Hijra, has also got 

impleaded  so  as  to  effectively  put  across  the  cause  of  the 

members  of  the  transgender  community  and  Tripathy’s  life 

experiences also for recognition of their identity as a third gender, 

over  and  above  male  and  female.    Tripathy  says  that  non-

recognition of  the identity of  Hijras,  a TG community,  as a third 

gender,  denies them the right of equality before the law and equal 

protection of  law guaranteed under Article 14 of  the Constitution 

and violates the rights guaranteed to them under Article 21 of the 

Constitution of India.  

5. Shri Raju Ramachandran, learned senior counsel appearing 

for  the  petitioner  –  the  National  Legal  Services  Authority, 

highlighted the traumatic experiences faced by the members of the 

TG community and submitted that every person of that community 

has a legal right to decide their sex orientation and to espouse and 

determine their  identity.   Learned senior  counsel  has submitted 

that since the TGs are neither treated as male or female, nor given 

the status of a third gender, they are being deprived of many of the 

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rights and privileges which other persons enjoy as citizens of this 

country.  TGs are deprived of social and cultural participation and 

hence  restricted  access  to  education,  health  care  and  public 

places  which  deprives  them of  the  Constitutional  guarantee  of 

equality before law and equal  protection of laws.  Further, it was 

also pointed out  that  the community also faces discrimination to 

contest  election,  right  to vote,  employment,  to get  licences etc. 

and,  in effect,  treated as an outcast and untouchable.    Learned 

senior  counsel  also submitted that  the State cannot  discriminate 

them on the ground of gender, violating Articles 14 to 16 and 21 of 

the Constitution of India.   

6. Shri Anand Grover, learned senior counsel appearing for the 

Intervener,  traced the historical  background of  the third gender 

identity in India and the position accorded to them in the Hindu 

Mythology,  Vedic and Puranic literatures,  and the prominent  role 

played  by  them in  the  royal  courts  of  the  Islamic  world  etc. 

Reference was  also made to the repealed Criminal  Tribes Act, 

1871  and  explained  the  inhuman  manner  by  which  they  were 

treated at  the time of  the British Colonial  rule.   Learned senior 

counsel also submitted that various International Forums and U.N. 

Bodies have recognized their gender identity and referred to the 

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Yogyakarta Principles and pointed out  that  those principles have 

been  recognized  by  various  countries  around  the  world. 

Reference was also made to few legislations giving recognition to 

the  trans-sexual  persons  in  other  countries.    Learned  senior 

counsel  also submitted that  non-recognition of  gender identity of 

the  transgender  community  violates  the  fundamental  rights 

guaranteed to them, who are citizens of this country.

7. Shri  T.  Srinivasa Murthy,  learned counsel  appearing in I.A. 

No.  2 of  2013,  submitted that  transgender  persons have to be 

declared  as  a  socially  and  educationally  backward  classes  of 

citizens and must be accorded all benefits available to that class of 

persons, which are being extended to male and female genders. 

Learned counsel  also submitted that  the right  to choose one’s 

gender  identity is integral  to the right  to lead a life with dignity, 

which is undoubtedly guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution 

of  India.   Learned counsel,  therefore,  submitted that,  subject  to 

such  rules/regulations/protocols,  transgender  persons  may  be 

afforded the right of choice to determine whether to opt for male, 

female or transgender classification.

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8. Shri  Sanjeev Bhatnagar,  learned counsel  appearing for the 

petitioner in Writ Petition No.604 of 2013, highlighted the cause of 

the  Kinnar  community  and  submitted  that  they  are  the  most 

deprived group of transgenders and calls for constitutional as well 

as legal  protection for their identity and for other socio-economic 

benefits,  which  are otherwise  extended to the members  of  the 

male and female genders in the community.   

9. Shri Rakesh K. Khanna, learned Additional Solicitor General, 

appearing  for  the  Union  of  India,  submitted  that  the  problems 

highlighted by the transgender  community is a sensitive human 

issue, which calls for serious attention.  Learned ASG pointed out 

that,  under  the  aegis  of  the  Ministry  of  Social  Justice  and 

Empowerment  (for  short  “MOSJE”),  a Committee,  called “Expert 

Committee  on  Issues  relating  to  Transgender”,   has  been 

constituted to conduct an in-depth study of the problems relating to 

transgender  persons  to  make  appropriate  recommendations  to 

MOSJE.   Shri  Khanna  also  submitted  that  due  representation 

would also be given to the applicants, appeared before this Court 

in the Committee, so that their views also could be heard.

 

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10. We also heard learned counsel appearing for various States 

and Union Territories  who have explained the steps  they have 

taken to improve the conditions and status of the members of TG 

community in their respective States and Union Territories.   Laxmi 

Narayan  Tripathy,  a  Hijra,  through  a  petition  supported  by  an 

affidavit,  highlighted  the  trauma  undergone  by  Tripathy  from 

Tripathy’s birth.   Rather than explaining the same by us, it would 

be appropriate to quote in Tripathy’s own words:

“That the Applicant has born as a male.  Growing up as

a child, she felt different from the boys of her age and

was feminine in her ways.  On account of her femininity,

from  an  early  age,  she  faced  repeated  sexual

harassment, molestation and sexual  abuse, both within

and outside the family.  Due to her being different,  she

was isolated and had no one to talk to or express her

feelings while she was coming to terms with her identity.

She was constantly abused by everyone as a ‘chakka’ 

and ‘hijra’.  Though she felt that there was no place for

her  in society,  she did not  succumb to the prejudice.

She started to dress and appear  in public in women’s

clothing in her late teens but  she did not  identify as a

woman.    Later,  she  joined  the  Hijra community  in

Mumbai  as she identified with the other  hijras  and for

the first time in her life, she felt at home.

That  being  a  hijra,  the  Applicant  has  faced  serious

discrimination throughout her life because of her gender

identity.   It  has  been  clear  to  the  Applicant  that  the

complete  non-recognition  of  the  identity  of

hijras/transgender persons by the State has resulted in

the  violation  of  most  of  the  fundamental  rights

guaranteed to them under the Constitution of India….”

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Siddarth Narrain, eunuch, highlights Narrain’s feeling, as 

follows:

”Ever  since I  can remember,  I  have always  identified

myself as a woman.  I lived in Namakkal, a small town in

Tamil Nadu.  When I was in the 10

th

 standard I realized

that the only way for me to be comfortable was to join

the hijra community.   It  was then that  my family found

out that I frequently met hijras who lived in the city.  One

day, when my father was away, my brother, encouraged

by my mother, started beating me with a cricket bat.  I

locked myself  in a room to escape from the beatings.

My mother and brother then tried to break into the room

to beat me up further.   Some of my relatives intervened

and brought me out of the room.  I related my ordeal to

an uncle of mine who gave me Rs.50 and asked me to

go home.   Instead,  I  took the money and went  to live

with a group of hijras in Erode.”

Sachin, a TG, expressed his experiences as follows:

“My name is Sachin and I am 23 years old.   As a child I

always  enjoyed  putting make-up like ‘vibhuti’  or  ‘kum

kum’  and my parents always saw me as a girl.    I  am

male but I only have female feelings.  I used to help my

mother in all  the housework like cooking,  washing and

cleaning.   Over  the years, I  started assuming more of

the domestic responsibilities at home.  The neighbours

starting teasing me.  They would call out to me and ask:

‘Why don’t you go out and work like a man?’   or ‘Why

are you staying at home like a girl?’   But I liked being a

girl.  I felt shy about going out and working.  Relatives

would also mock and scold me on this score.  Every day

I  would go out  of  the house to bring water.   And as I

walked back with the water I would always be teased.  I

felt very ashamed. I even felt suicidal.  How could I live

like that?    But my parents never protested.  They were

helpless.”

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We have been told and informed of  similar life experiences 

faced by various others who belong to the TG community.

11.   Transgender is generally described as an umbrella term for 

persons  whose  gender  identity,  gender  expression  or  behavior 

does not  conform to their  biological  sex.  TG may also takes in 

persons who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth, which 

include  Hijras/Eunuchs  who,  in  this  writ  petition,  describe 

themselves as “third gender” and they do not identify as either male 

or female.   Hijras are not  men by virtue of  anatomy appearance 

and psychologically, they are also not women, though they are like 

women with no female reproduction organ and no menstruation. 

Since Hijras do not have reproduction capacities as either men or 

women,  they  are  neither  men  nor  women  and  claim to  be  an 

institutional  “third gender”.   Among Hijras, there are emasculated 

(castrated,  nirvana)  men,  non-emasculated  men  (not 

castrated/akva/akka)  and  inter-sexed  persons  (hermaphrodites). 

TG  also  includes  persons  who  intend  to  undergo  Sex  Re-

Assignment Surgery (SRS) or have undergone SRS to align their 

biological sex with their gender identity in order to become male or 

female.   They are generally called transsexual  persons. Further, 

there are persons who like to cross-dress in clothing of  opposite 

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gender,  i.e transvestites.  Resultantly,  the term “transgender”,  in 

contemporary usage, has become an umbrella term that is used to 

describe a wide range of identities and experiences, including but 

not  limited  to  pre-operative,  post-operative  and  non-operative 

transsexual people, who strongly identify with the gender opposite 

to their biological sex; male and female.   

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF TRANSGENDERS IN INDIA:

12. TG  Community  comprises  of  Hijras,  eunuchs,  Kothis, 

Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc. and they, as a group, have 

got  a  strong  historical  presence  in  our  country  in  the  Hindu 

mythology and other religious texts.   The Concept of tritiya prakrti  

or  napunsaka has also been an integral part of vedic and puranic 

literatures.   The  word  ‘napunsaka’   has  been  used  to  denote 

absence of procreative capability.     

13. Lord Rama, in the epic Ramayana, was leaving for the forest 

upon being banished from the kingdom for 14 years, turns around 

to his followers and asks all the ‘men and women’ to return to the 

city.  Among his followers, the hijras alone do not feel bound by this 

direction  and  decide  to  stay  with  him.   Impressed  with  their 

devotion, Rama sanctions them the power to confer blessings on 

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people on auspicious occasions like childbirth and marriage,  and 

also at inaugural functions which, it is believed set the stage for the 

custom of badhai in which hijras sing, dance and confer blessings. 

14. Aravan,  the son of  Arjuna and Nagakanya in Mahabharata, 

offers to be sacrificed to Goddess Kali to ensure the victory of the 

Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war,   the only condition that he made 

was to spend the last night  of  his life in matrimony.     Since no 

woman was willing to marry one who was doomed to be killed, 

Krishna assumes the form of a beautiful woman called Mohini and 

marries him.    The Hijras  of  Tamil  Nadu consider  Aravan their 

progenitor and call themselves Aravanis.   

15. Jain  Texts  also  make  a  detailed  reference  to  TG which 

mentions the concept of ‘psychological  sex’.  Hijras also played a 

prominent role in the royal courts of the Islamic world, especially in 

the Ottaman empires and the Mughal rule in the Medieval India.   A 

detailed analysis of the historical  background of the same finds a 

place  in  the  book  of  Gayatri  Reddy,  “With  Respect  to  Sex: 

Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India” – Yoda Press (2006).

16. We notice that  even though historically,  Hijras/transgender 

persons had played a prominent role, with the onset of colonial rule 

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from  the  18

th

 century  onwards,  the  situation  had  changed 

drastically.    During the British rule,  a legislation was enacted to 

supervise the deeds of  Hijras/TG community,  called the Criminal 

Tribes Act,  1871,  which deemed the entire community of  Hijras 

persons  as  innately  ‘criminal’  and  ‘addicted  to  the  systematic 

commission of non-bailable offences’.    The Act provided for the 

registration, surveillance and control  of certain criminal  tribes and 

eunuchs and had penalized eunuchs,  who were registered,  and 

appeared to be dressed or ornamented like a woman,  in a public 

street or place, as well as those who danced or played music in a 

public place.  Such persons also could be arrested without warrant 

and sentenced to imprisonment  up to two years or  fine or  both. 

Under the Act, the local government had to register the names and 

residence of  all  eunuchs residing in that  area as well  as of  their 

properties,  who  were  reasonably  suspected  of  kidnapping  or 

castrating children, or of committing offences under Section 377 of 

the IPC, or of abetting the commission of any of the said offences. 

Under  the Act,  the act  of  keeping a boy under  16 years in the 

charge of  a registered eunuch was made an offence punishable 

with imprisonment up to two years or fine and the Act also denuded 

the registered eunuchs of their civil rights by prohibiting them from 

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acting as guardians to minors, from making a gift deed or a will, or 

from adopting a son.  Act has, however, been repealed in August 

1949.

17. Section 377 of  the IPC found a place in the Indian Penal 

Code,  1860,  prior  to the enactment  of  Criminal  Tribles Act  that 

criminalized all  penile-non-vaginal  sexual  acts between persons, 

including  anal  sex  and  oral  sex,  at  a  time  when  transgender 

persons were also typically associated with the prescribed sexual 

practices.   Reference  may  be  made  to  the  judgment  of  the 

Allahabad High Court in Queen Empress v. Khairati (1884) ILR 6 

All  204,  wherein  a  transgender  person  was  arrested  and 

prosecuted under  Section  377 on  the suspicion  that  he  was  a 

‘habitual sodomite’ and was later acquitted on appeal.  In that case, 

while acquitting him, the Sessions Judge stated as follows:

“This  case  relates  to  a  person  named  Khairati,  over

whom the police seem to have exercised some sort  of

supervision, whether strictly regular or not, as a eunuch.

The man is not a eunuch in the literal sense, but he was

called for by the police when on a visit to his village, and

was  found  singing  dressed  as  a  woman  among  the

women of  a certain family.   Having been subjected to

examination by the Civil  Surgeon (and a subordinate

medical  man),  he is shown to have the characteristic

mark of a habitual catamite – the distortion of the orifice

of the anus into the shape of a trumpet and also to be

affected with syphilis in the same region in a manner 

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which distinctly points to unnatural intercourse within the

last few months.” 

18. Even though,  he was acquitted on appeal,  this case would 

demonstrate  that  Section  377,  though  associated  with  specific 

sexual acts, highlighted certain identities, including Hijras and was 

used as an instrument of harassment and physical  abuse against 

Hijras and transgender persons.    A Division Bench of this Court in 

Suresh Kumar  Koushal  and another v.  Naz Foundation and 

others [(2014)  1  SCC  1]  has  already  spoken  on  the 

constitutionality of  Section 377 IPC and,  hence,  we express no 

opinion  on  it  since  we  are  in  these  cases  concerned  with  an 

altogether different issue pertaining to the constitutional and other 

legal rights of the transgender community and their gender identity 

and sexual orientation.  

GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION

19. Gender identity is one of the most-fundamental aspects of life 

which refers to a person’s intrinsic sense of being male, female or 

transgender  or  transsexual  person.   A person’s  sex  is  usually 

assigned at birth, but a relatively small group of persons may born 

with bodies which incorporate both or certain aspects of both male 

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and female physiology.   At  times, genital  anatomy problems may 

arise in certain persons, their innate perception of  themselves, is 

not in conformity with the sex assigned to them at birth and may 

include  pre  and  post-operative  transsexual  persons  and  also 

persons who do not choose to undergo or do not have access to 

operation and also include persons who cannot undergo successful 

operation.   Countries,  all  over  the  world,  including  India,  are 

grappled with the question of attribution of gender to persons who 

believe  that  they  belong  to  the  opposite  sex.   Few  persons 

undertake surgical  and other procedures to alter their bodies and 

physical  appearance to acquire gender  characteristics of  the sex 

which conform to their perception of  gender,  leading to legal  and 

social  complications since official  record of their gender at birth is 

found to be at variance with the assumed gender identity. Gender 

identity refers to each person’s deeply felt  internal  and individual 

experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the 

sex assigned at  birth,  including the personal  sense of  the body 

which  may  involve  a  freely  chosen,  modification  of  bodily 

appearance or functions by medical, surgical  or other means and 

other  expressions  of  gender,  including  dress,  speech  and 

mannerisms.  Gender  identity,  therefore,  refers  to an individual’s 

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self-identification as a man, woman, transgender or other identified 

category.

20. Sexual orientation refers to an individual’s enduring physical, 

romantic and/or  emotional  attraction to another  person.   Sexual 

orientation includes transgender  and gender-variant  people with 

heavy sexual  orientation and their sexual  orientation may or may 

not  change  during  or  after  gender  transmission,  which  also 

includes  homo-sexuals,  bysexuals,  heterosexuals,  asexual  etc. 

Gender  identity and sexual  orientation,  as already indicated,  are 

different  concepts.  Each person’s self-defined sexual  orientation 

and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the 

most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom and 

no one shall  be forced to undergo medical  procedures, including 

SRS, sterilization or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal 

recognition of their gender identity.  

UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES – ON

GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION

21. United  Nations  has  been  instrumental  in  advocating  the 

protection and promotion of  rights of  sexual  minorities, including 

transgender  persons.    Article 6 of  the Universal  Declaration of 

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Human Rights, 1948 and Article 16 of the International  Covenant 

on Civil  and Political  Rights,  1966 (ICCPR)  recognize that  every 

human being has the inherent right to live and this right shall  be 

protected by law and that no one shall be arbitrarily denied of that 

right.  Everyone shall have a right to recognition, everywhere as a 

person before the law.   Article 17 of the ICCPR states that no one 

shall  be subjected to arbitrary  or  unlawful  interference with his 

privacy,  family,  home or correspondence,  nor to unlawful  attacks 

on his honour and reputation and that  everyone has the right  to 

protection of law against such interference or attacks. International 

Commission of  Jurists and the International  Service for  Human 

Rights on behalf of a coalition of human rights organizations, took 

a project to develop a set  of  international  legal  principles on the 

application of international law to human rights violations based on 

sexual  orientation and sexual  identity to bring greater clarity and 

coherence to State’s human rights obligations.   A distinguished 

group of human rights experts has drafted, developed, discussed 

and reformed the principles in a meeting held at  Gadjah Mada 

University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia from 6 to 9 November, 2006, 

which is unanimously adopted the Yogyakarta Principles on the 

application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual 

17

Orientation and Gender Identity.   Yogyakarta Principles address a 

broad range of  human rights standards and their  application to 

issues of  sexual  orientation gender  identity.    Reference to few 

Yogyakarta Principles would be useful.   

YOGYAKARTA PRINCIPLES:

22. Principle  1  which  deals  with  the  right  to  the  universal 

enjoyment of human rights, reads as follows :-

“1. THE RIGHT TO THE UNIVERSAL ENJOYMENT

OF HUMAN RIGHTS

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and

rights.  Human  beings  of  all  sexual  orientations  and

gender identities are entitled to the full enjoyment of all

human rights.

States shall:

A.   Embody  the  principles  of  the  universality,

interrelatedness, interdependence and indivisibility

of all human rights in their national constitutions or

other  appropriate  legislation  and  ensure  the

practical  realisation of  the universal  enjoyment  of

all human rights;

B. Amend any legislation,  including criminal  law,  to

ensure  its  consistency  with  the  universal

enjoyment of all human rights;

C. Undertake  programmes  of  education  and

awareness  to  promote  and  enhance  the  full

enjoyment  of  all  human  rights  by  all  persons,

irrespective  of  sexual  orientation  or  gender

identity;

18

D. Integrate within State policy and decision-making a

pluralistic  approach  that  recognises  and  affirms

the interrelatedness and indivisibility of all aspects

of human identity including sexual orientation and

gender identity.

2. THE  RIGHTS  TO  EQUALITY  AND  NONDISCRIMINATION

 

Everyone is entitled to enjoy all  human rights without

discrimination  on  the  basis  of  sexual  orientation  or

gender  identity.  Everyone is entitled to equality before

the law and the equal protection of the law without any

such  discrimination  whether  or  not  the  enjoyment  of

another  human  right  is  also  affected.  The  law shall

prohibit  any  such  discrimination  and  guarantee  to  all

persons equal and effective protection against any such

discrimination. 

Discrimination  on  the  basis  of  sexual  orientation  or

gender  identity  includes  any  distinction,  exclusion,

restriction or preference based on sexual  orientation or

gender  identity  which  has  the  purpose  or  effect  of

nullifying  or  impairing  equality  before  the  law or  the

equal  protection  of  the  law,  or  the  recognition,

enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis, of all human

rights and fundamental  freedoms. Discrimination based

on sexual  orientation or  gender  identity may be,  and

commonly  is,  compounded by discrimination on other

grounds including gender, race, age, religion, disability,

health and economic status.

States shall:

A. Embody  the  principles  of  equality  and  nondiscrimination

on

the

basis

of

sexual

 orientation and

gender identity in their national constitutions or other

appropriate legislation, if not yet incorporated therein,

including by means of amendment and interpretation,

and  ensure  the  effective  realisation  of  these

principles;

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B. Repeal  criminal  and  other  legal  provisions  that

prohibit  or  are,  in  effect,  employed  to  prohibit

consensual sexual activity among people of the same

sex who are over the age of consent, and ensure that

an equal  age of  consent  applies to both same-sex

and different- sex sexual activity;

C. Adopt  appropriate legislative and other measures to

prohibit and eliminate discrimination in the public and

private spheres on the basis of sexual orientation and

gender identity; 

D. Take  appropriate  measures  to  secure  adequate

advancement  of  persons  of  diverse  sexual

orientations  and  gender  identities  as  may  be

necessary to ensure such groups or individuals equal

enjoyment  or  exercise  of  human  rights.   Such

measures shall not be deemed to be discriminatory;

E.  In all  their responses to discrimination on the basis

of sexual orientation or gender identity, take account

of  the  manner  in  which  such  discrimination  may 

intersect with other forms of discrimination;

F.  Take all appropriate action, including programmes of

education and training,  with a view to achieving the 

elimination of prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes or

behaviours  which  are  related  to  the  idea  of  the

inferiority or the superiority of any sexual  orientation

or gender identity or gender expression.

3. THE RIGHT TO RECOGNITION BEFORE THE

LAW

Everyone has the right  to recognition everywhere as a

person  before  the  law.  Persons  of  diverse  sexual

orientations  and  gender  identities  shall  enjoy  legal

capacity in all aspects of life. Each person’s self-defined

sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their

personality and is one of the most basic aspects of selfdetermination,

 dignity  and  freedom.  No  one  shall  be

forced  to  undergo  medical  procedures,  including  sex 

20

reassignment surgery, sterilisation or hormonal therapy,

as a requirement  for  legal  recognition of  their  gender

identity.  No  status,  such  as  marriage  or  parenthood,

may be invoked as such to prevent the legal recognition

of a person’s gender identity. No one shall be subjected

to pressure to conceal,  suppress or  deny their  sexual

orientation or gender identity. 

States shall:

A. Ensure that all persons are accorded legal capacity in

civil  matters,  without  discrimination on the basis of

sexual  orientation  or  gender  identity,  and  the

opportunity to exercise that capacity, including equal

rights to conclude contracts, and to administer, own,

acquire  (including  through  inheritance),  manage,

enjoy and dispose of property;

B. Take  all  necessary  legislative,  administrative  and

other measures to fully respect and legally recognise

each person’s self-defined gender identity;

C. Take  all  necessary  legislative,  administrative  and

other  measures  to  ensure  that  procedures  exist

whereby  all  State-issued  identity  papers  which

indicate  a  person’s  gender/sex  — including  birth

certificates,  passports,  electoral  records  and  other

documents  — reflect  the  person’s  profound  selfdefined

gender

identity;

D. Ensure that  such procedures are efficient,  fair  and

non-discriminatory,  and  respect  the  dignity  and

privacy of the person concerned;

E. Ensure that  changes  to identity documents  will  be

recognised in all  contexts where the identification or

disaggregation of  persons by gender  is required by

law or policy;

F. Undertake  targeted  programmes  to  provide  social

support  for  all  persons  experiencing  gender

transitioning or reassignment.

21

4. THE RIGHT TO LIFE

Everyone has the right to life. No one shall be arbitrarily

deprived of life, including by reference to considerations

of  sexual  orientation  or  gender  identity.  The  death

penalty shall not be imposed on any person on the basis

of  consensual  sexual  activity among persons who are

over  the  age  of  consent  or  on  the  basis  of  sexual

orientation or gender identity.

States shall:

A. Repeal  all  forms of  crime that  have the purpose or

effect of prohibiting consensual sexual activity among

persons of  the same sex who are over  the age of

consent  and,  until  such  provisions  are  repealed,

never  impose  the  death  penalty  on  any  person

convicted under them; 

B. Remit  sentences  of  death  and  release  all  those

currently  awaiting  execution  for  crimes  relating  to

consensual  sexual  activity among persons who are

over the age of consent;

C.  Cease  any  State-sponsored  or  State-condoned

attacks  on  the  lives  of  persons  based  on  sexual

orientation  or  gender  identity,  and  ensure  that  all 

such attacks, whether by government  officials or by

any individual  or  group,  are vigorously investigated,

and that, where appropriate evidence is found, those

responsible are prosecuted, tried and duly punished.

6. THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY 

Everyone,  regardless  of  sexual  orientation  or  gender

identity,  is entitled to the enjoyment  of  privacy without

arbitrary or unlawful  interference,  including with regard

to their  family,  home or  correspondence as well  as to

protection  from unlawful  attacks  on  their  honour  and

reputation.  The right  to privacy ordinarily includes the

choice to disclose or not to disclose information relating 

22

to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as

decisions and choices regarding both one’s own body

and consensual sexual and other relations with others.

States shall:

A. Take  all  necessary  legislative,  administrative  and

other  measures to ensure the right  of  each person,

regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to

enjoy  the  private  sphere,  intimate  decisions,  and

human relations, including consensual sexual activity

among persons who are over  the age of  consent,

without arbitrary interference;

B. Repeal  all  laws  that  criminalise consensual  sexual

activity among persons of the same sex who are over

the age of consent, and ensure that an equal age of

consent  applies to both same-sex and different-sex

sexual activity;

C. Ensure  that  criminal  and  other  legal  provisions  of

general  application  are  not  applied  to  de  facto

criminalise consensual sexual activity among persons

of the same sex who are over the age of consent;

D. Repeal  any  law that  prohibits  or  criminalises  the

expression  of  gender  identity,  including  through

dress,  speech  or  mannerisms,  or  that  denies  to

individuals the opportunity to change their bodies as

a means of expressing their gender identity;

E. Release all those held on remand or on the basis of a

criminal  conviction,  if  their  detention  is  related  to

consensual  sexual  activity among persons who are

over  the  age  of  consent,  or  is  related  to  gender

identity;

F. Ensure the right  of  all  persons ordinarily to choose

when,  to  whom and  how  to  disclose  information

pertaining  to  their  sexual  orientation  or  gender

identity,  and  protect  all  persons  from arbitrary  or

unwanted disclosure, or threat of  disclosure of such 

23

information by others

9. THE RIGHT TO TREATMENT WITH HUMANITY

WHILE IN DETENTION

Everyone  deprived  of  liberty  shall  be  treated  with

humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the

human person.  Sexual  orientation and gender  identity

are integral to each person’s dignity.

States shall:

A. Ensure  that  placement  in  detention  avoids  further

marginalising  persons  on  the  basis  of  sexual

orientation or  gender  identity or  subjecting them to

risk of  violence,  ill-treatment  or  physical,  mental  or

sexual abuse;

B. Provide  adequate  access  to  medical  care  and

counselling  appropriate  to  the  needs  of  those  in

custody, recognising any particular needs of persons

on  the  basis  of  their  sexual  orientation  or  gender

identity,  including with regard to reproductive health,

access  to  HIV/AIDS  information  and  therapy  and

access to hormonal  or  other  therapy as well  as to

gender-reassignment treatments where desired;

C. Ensure,  to  the  extent  possible,  that  all  prisoners

participate  in  decisions  regarding  the  place  of

detention appropriate to their sexual  orientation and

gender identity;

D. Put  protective  measures  in  place  for  all  prisoners

vulnerable to violence or abuse on the basis of their

sexual  orientation,  gender  identity  or  gender

expression  and  ensure,  so  far  as  is  reasonably

practicable, that such protective measures involve no

greater restriction of their rights than is experienced

by the general prison population;

E. Ensure  that  conjugal  visits,  where  permitted,  are 

24

granted  on  an  equal  basis  to  all  prisoners  and

detainees, regardless of the gender of their partner;

F. Provide for  the independent  monitoring of  detention

facilities by the State as well as by non-governmental

organisations including organisations working in the

spheres of sexual orientation and gender identity;

G. Undertake programmes  of  training and awarenessraising

 

for prison personnel  and all  other officials in

the public  and private sector  who  are engaged in

detention  facilities,  regarding  international  human

rights standards and principles of  equality and nondiscrimination,

 including  in  relation  to  sexual

orientation and gender identity.

18. PROTECTION FROM MEDICAL ABUSES

No  person  may  be  forced  to  undergo  any  form of

medical  or psychological  treatment,  procedure,  testing,

or  be confined to a medical  facility,  based on sexual

orientation  or  gender  identity.  Notwithstanding  any

classifications  to  the  contrary,  a  person’s  sexual

orientation  and  gender  identity  are  not,  in  and  of

themselves,  medical  conditions  and  are  not  to  be

treated, cured or suppressed. 

States shall:

A. Take  all  necessary  legislative,  administrative  and

other  measures  to  ensure  full  protection  against

harmful  medical  practices  based  on  sexual

orientation or gender identity,  including on the basis

of  stereotypes,  whether  derived  from  culture  or

otherwise, regarding conduct, physical appearance or

perceived gender norms;

B. Take  all  necessary  legislative,  administrative  and

other  measures  to  ensure  that  no  child’s  body  is

irreversibly  altered  by  medical  procedures  in  an

attempt  to impose a gender identity without  the full,

free and informed consent of the child in accordance 

25

with the age and maturity of the child and guided by

the principle that  in all  actions concerning children,

the  best  interests  of  the  child  shall  be  a  primary

consideration;

C. Establish  child protection mechanisms  whereby  no

child is at risk of, or subjected to, medical abuse;

D. Ensure  protection  of  persons  of  diverse  sexual

orientations and gender identities against unethical or

involuntary medical procedures or research, including

in relation to vaccines, treatments or microbicides for

HIV/AIDS or other diseases;

E. Review and amend any health funding provisions or

programmes,  including  those  of  a  developmentassistance

nature,

which

may

promote,

facilitate

or

in

 

any

other

way

render

possible

such

abuses;

F. Ensure that  any medical  or  psychological  treatment

or  counselling does not,  explicitly or  implicitly,  treat

sexual  orientation  and  gender  identity  as  medical

conditions to be treated, cured or suppressed.

19.   THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF OPINION AND

EXPRESSION

Everyone  has  the  right  to  freedom  of  opinion  and

expression,  regardless of  sexual  orientation or  gender

identity.  This  includes  the  expression  of  identity  or

personhood through speech,  deportment,  dress, bodily

characteristics, choice of name, or any other means, as

well  as  the  freedom  to  seek,  receive  and  impart

information and ideas of all kinds, including with regard

to human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity,

through any medium and regardless of frontiers. 

States shall:

A. Take  all  necessary  legislative,  administrative  and

other measures to ensure full  enjoyment  of freedom

of opinion and expression, while respecting the rights 

26

        

and freedoms of others, without discrimination on the

basis  of  sexual  orientation  or  gender  identity,

including the receipt and imparting of information and

ideas  concerning  sexual  orientation  and  gender

identity,  as well  as related advocacy for legal  rights,

publication of materials, broadcasting, organisation of

or participation in conferences, and dissemination of

and access to safer-sex information;

B.  Ensure  that  the  outputs  and  the  organisation  of

media that  is State-regulated is pluralistic and nondiscriminatory

 in  respect  of  issues  of  sexual 

orientation and gender identity and that the personnel

recruitment  and  promotion  policies  of  such

organisations are non-discriminatory on the basis of

sexual orientation or gender identity;

C.  Take  all  necessary  legislative,  administrative  and

other  measures to ensure the full  enjoyment  of  the

right  to  express  identity  or  personhood,  including 

through  speech,  deportment,  dress,  bodily

characteristics, choice of name or any other means;

D. Ensure that  notions of  public order,  public morality,

public health and public security are not employed to

restrict,  in a discriminatory manner,  any exercise of

freedom  of  opinion  and  expression  that  affirms

diverse sexual orientations or gender identities;

E. Ensure that  the exercise of  freedom of  opinion and

expression does not violate the rights and freedoms

of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender

identities;

F. Ensure  that  all  persons,  regardless  of  sexual

orientation or gender identity,  enjoy equal  access to

information and ideas,  as well  as to participation in

public debate.”

27

23. UN bodies, Regional Human Rights Bodies, National Courts, 

Government  Commissions  and  the  Commissions  for  Human 

Rights,  Council  of  Europe,  etc.  have  endorsed the Yogyakarta 

Principles  and  have  considered  them as  an  important  tool  for 

identifying the obligations of States to respect, protect and fulfill the 

human rights of  all  persons,  regardless of  their  gender  identity. 

United  Nations  Committee  on  Economic,  Social  and  Cultural 

Rights  in its  Report  of  2009 speaks  of  gender  orientation and 

gender identity as follows:-

“Sexual orientation and gender identity

‘Other status’ as recognized in article 2, paragraph 2,

includes  sexual  orientation.   States  parties  should

ensure  that  a  person’s  sexual  orientation  is  not  a

barrier  to realizing Covenant  rights,  for  example,  in

accessing  survivor’s  pension  rights.   In  addition,

gender identity is recognized as among the prohibited

grounds of  discrimination,  for example,  persons who

are transgender,  transsexual  or  intersex,  often face

serious human rights violations, such as harassment

in schools or in the workplace.”

24. In this respect, reference may also be made to the General 

Comment  No.2 of the Committee on Torture and Article 2 of the 

Convention  against  Torture  and  Other  Cruel,  Inhuman  or 

Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2008 and also the General 

Comment No.20 of the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination 

against  Woman,  responsible  for  the  implementation  of  the 

28

Convention  on  the  Elimination  of  All  Forms  of  Discrimination 

against Woman, 1979 and 2010 report.  

SRS and Foreign Judgments

25. Various  countries  have  given  recognition  to  the  gender 

identity  of  such  persons,  mostly,  in  cases  where  transsexual 

persons started asserting their rights after undergoing SRS of their 

re-assigned sex.    In Corbett v. Corbett (1970) 2 All ER 33, the 

Court  in England was  concerned with the gender  of  a male to 

female transsexual  in the context  of  the validity  of  a marriage. 

Ormrod, J. in that case took the view that the law should adopt the 

chromosomal,  gonadal  and  genital  tests  and  if  all  three  are 

congruent, that should determine a person’s sex for the purpose of 

marriage.   Learned Judge expressed the view that  any operative 

intervention  should  be  ignored  and  the  biological  sexual 

constitution  of  an  individual  is  fixed  at  birth,  at  the  latest,  and 

cannot be changed either by the natural development of organs of 

the opposite sex or by medical  or surgical  means.  Later, in R v.  

Tan  (1983)  QB 1053,  1063-1064,  the  Court  of  Appeal  applied 

Corbett approach in the context of criminal law.  The Court upheld 

29

convictions  which  were  imposed  on  Gloria  Greaves,  a  post-

operative male to female transsexual, still being in law, a man.   

26. Corbett principle  was  not  found  favour  by  various  other 

countries, like New Zealand, Australia etc. and also attracted much 

criticism,  from  the  medical  profession.   It  was  felt  that  the 

application of  the  Corbett approach would lead to a substantial 

different outcome in cases of a post operative inter-sexual person 

and a post  operative transsexual  person.    In New Zealand in 

Attorney-General v. Otahuhu Family Court (1995) 1 NZLR 603, 

Justice Ellis noted that once a transsexual person has undergone 

surgery, he or she is no longer able to operate in his or her original 

sex.   It was held that there is no social advantage in the law for not 

recognizing the validity of the marriage of a transsexual in the sex 

of reassignment.   The Court held that an adequate test is whether 

the  person  in  question  has  undergone  surgical  and  medical 

procedures  that  have  effectively  given  the  person  the  physical 

conformation of a person of a specified sex.  In Re Kevin (Validity 

of  Marriage  of  Transsexual) (2001)  Fam  CA  1074,  in  an 

Australian  case,  Chisholm J.,  held  that  there  is  no  ‘formulaic 

solution’ to determine the sex of an individual for the purpose of the 

law of marriage.  It was held that all  relevant matters need to be 

30

considered,  including  the  person’s  life  experiences  and  self-

perception.    Full  Court  of  the Federal  Family Court  in the year 

2003 approved the above-mentioned judgment holding that in the 

relevant  Commonwealth  marriage  statute  the  words  ‘man’  and 

‘woman’  should be given their  ordinary,  everyday  contemporary 

meaning and that the word ‘man’ includes a post operative female 

to male transsexual  person.   The Full  Court  also held that  there 

was a biological  basis for  transsexualism and that  there was no 

reason to exclude the psyche as one of  the relevant  factors in 

determining sex and gender.  The judgment Attorney-General for 

the Commonwealth & “Kevin and Jennifer” & Human Rights 

and Equal  Opportunity Commission  is reported in (2003) Fam 

CA 94.

27.  Lockhart, J. in Secretary, Department of Social Security v.  

“SRA”,   (1993)  43 FCR 299 and Mathews,  J. in  R v.  Harris & 

McGuiness (1988) 17 NSWLR 158, made an exhaustive review of 

the various decisions with regard to the question of recognition to 

be accorded by Courts to the gender of a transsexual person who 

had undertaken a surgical  procedure.    The Courts generally in 

New Zealand held that the decision in Corbett v. Corbett (supra) 

and R v. Tan (supra) which applied a purely biological test, should 

31

not  be followed.   In fact,  Lockhart.  J. in  SRA observed that  the 

development  in surgical  and medical  techniques  in the field of 

sexual  reassignment, together with indications of changing social 

attitudes towards transsexuals, would indicate that generally they 

should not be regarded merely as a matter of chromosomes, which 

is  purely  a  psychological  question,  one  of  self-perception,  and 

partly a social question, how society perceives the individual.  

28.   A.B.  v.  Western  Australia (2011)  HCA 42  was  a  case 

concerned with the Gender Reassignment Act, 2000.  In that Act, a 

person who had undergone a reassignment procedure could apply 

to  Gender  Reassignment  Board  for  the  issue  of  a  recognition 

certificate.    Under  Section  15  of  that  Act,  before  issuing  the 

certificate,  the  Board  had  to  be  satisfied,  inter  alia,  that  the 

applicant  believed  his  or  her  true  gender  was  the  person’s 

reassigned  gender  and  had  adopted  the  lifestyle  and  gender 

characteristics  of  that  gender.   Majority  of  Judges  agreed with 

Lockhart, J. in SRA  that gender should not be regarded merely as 

a matter of chromosomes, but partly a psychological question, one 

of  self-perception,  and  partly  a  social  question,  how  society 

perceives the individual.  

32

29.  The House of Lords in Bellinger v. Bellinger (2003) 2 All ER 

593 was dealing with the question of a transsexual.  In that case, 

Mrs. Bellinger was born on 7

th

 September, 1946.  At birth, she was 

correctly  classified and registered as  male.   However,  she felt 

more inclined to be a female.  Despite her inclinations, and under 

some pressure, in 1967 she married a woman and at that time she 

was 21 years old.  Marriage broke down and parties separated in 

1971 and got divorce in the year 1975.  Mrs. Bellinger dressed and 

lived like a woman and when she married Mr.  Bellinger,  he was 

fully aware of her background and throughout had been supportive 

to her.   Mr.  and Mrs.  Bellinger  since marriage lived happily as 

husband and wife and presented themselves in that fashion to the 

outside world.  Mrs. Bellinger’s primary claim was for a declaration 

under Section 55 of the Family Law Act, 1986 that her marriage to 

Mr.  Bellinger  in 1981 was “at  its inception valid marriage”.   The 

House  of  Lords  rejected  the  claim and  dismissed  the  appeal. 

Certainly,  the  “psychological  factor”  has  not  been  given  much 

prominence in determination of the claim of Mrs. Bellinger. 

30.  The High Court of Kuala Lumpur in Re JG, JG v. Pengarah 

Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (2006) 1 MLJ 90, was considering 

the question as to whether  an application to amend or  correct 

33

gender  status stated in National  Registration Identity Card could 

be allowed after  a person has undergone  SRS.   It  was a case 

where the plaintiff was born as a male, but felt more inclined to be 

a woman.   In 1996 at  Hospital  Siroros she underwent  a gender 

reassignment and got the surgery done for changing the sex from 

male to female and then she lived like a woman.  She applied to 

authorities to change her name and also for a declaration of  her 

gender as female, but her request was not favourably considered, 

but  still  treated as a male.    She sought  a declaration from the 

Court that she be declared as a female and that the Registration 

Department be directed to change the last digit of her identity card 

to a digit  that  reflects  a female gender.   The Malaysian Court 

basically  applied  the  principle  laid  down  in  Corbett  (supra), 

however, both the prayers sought for were granted, after noticing 

that the medical men have spoken that the plaintiff is a female and 

they have considered the sex change of the plaintiff as well as her 

“psychological  aspect”.    The Court  noticed that  she feels like a 

woman,  lives like one,  behaves as one,  has her  physical  body 

attuned  to  one,  and  most  important  of  all,  her  “psychological 

thinking” is that of a woman.  

34

31.   The Court of Appeal, New South Wales was called upon to 

decide the question whether  the Registrar  of  Births, Deaths and 

Marriages has the power under the Births, Deaths and Marriages 

Act,  1995 to register  a change of  sex of  a person and the sex 

recorded on the register to “non-specific” or “non-specified”.  The 

appeal  was  allowed  and  the  matter  was  remitted  back  to  the 

Tribunal  for  a fresh consideration in accordance with law,  after 

laying down the law on the subject.  The judgment is reported as 

Norrie  v.  NSW Registrar  of  Births,  Deaths  and  Marriages 

(2013) NSWCA 145.  While disposing of the appeal, the Court held 

as follows:-

“The consequence is that the Appeal  Panel  (and the

Tribunal and the Registrar) were in error in construing

the power  in S.32DC(1)  as limiting the Registrar  to

registering a person’s change of sex as only male or 

female.   An error in the construction of the statutory

provision granting the power  to register  a person’s

change  of  sex  is  an  error  on  a  question  of  law. 

Collector  of  Customs v.  Pozzolanic Enterprises Pty. 

Ltd. [1993] FCA 322; (1993) 43 FCR 280 at 287.  This

is  so  notwithstanding  that  the determination  of  the

common understanding of a general word used in the

statutory provision is a question of fact.  The Appeal 

Panel  (and the Tribunal  and the Registrar)  erred in

determining that  the current  ordinary meaning of the

word “sex” is limited to the character of  being either 

male or female. That involved an error on a question

of fact.  But the Appeal Panel’s error in arriving at the

common  understanding  of  the  word  “sex”  was

associated with its error in construction of the effect of 

the  statutory  provision  of  S.32DC  (and  also  of  

35

S.32DA), and accordingly is of law: Hope v. Bathurst

City Council [1980] HCA 16, (1980) 144 CLR 1 at 10.”

32.   In  Christine  Goodwin  v.  United  Kingdom  (Application 

No.28957/95 -  Judgment  dated 11

th

 July,  2002),  the  European 

Court of Human Rights examined an application alleging violation 

of  Articles 8,  12,  13 and 14 of  the Convention for  Protection of 

Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1997 in respect of the 

legal status of transsexuals in UK and particularly their treatment in 

the sphere of employment, social security, pensions and marriage. 

Applicant in that case had a tendency to dress as a woman from 

early childhood and underwent  aversion therapy in 1963-64.    In 

the mid-1960s she was diagnosed as a transsexual.   Though she 

married a woman and they had four children, her inclination was 

that her “brain sex” did not fit her body.  From that time until 1984 

she dressed as a man for work but as a woman in her free time.  In 

January,  1985,  the  applicant  began  treatment  at  the  Gender 

Identity  Clinic.   In  October,  1986,  she  underwent  surgery  to 

shorten her vocal chords.  In August, 1987, she was accepted on 

the  waiting  list  for  gender  re-assignment  surgery  and  later 

underwent that surgery at a National Health Service hospital.  The 

applicant  later  divorced her  former  wife.   She claimed between 

1990 and 1992 she was sexually harassed by colleagues at work, 

36

followed by other human rights violations.  The Court after referring 

to various provisions and Conventions held as follows:- 

“Nonetheless, the very essence of  the Convention is

respect for human dignity and human freedom. Under

Article  8  of  the  Convention  in  particular,  where  the

notion of  personal  autonomy is an important principle

underlying  the  interpretation  of  its  guarantees,

protection  is  given  to  the  personal  sphere  of  each

individuals,  including the right  to establish details of

their  identity  as  individual  human beings  (see, inter 

alia,  Pretty  v.  the  United  Kingdom  no.2346/02,

judgment of 29 April  2002, 62, and Mikulic v. Croatia,

no.53176/99, judgment of 7 February 2002, 53, both to

be published in ECHR 2002…).   In the twenty  first

century  the  right  of  transsexuals  to  personal

development and to physical and moral security in the

full  sense  enjoyed  by  others  in  society  cannot  be

regarded as a matter of controversy requiring the lapse

of time to cast clearer light on the issues involved.  In

short,  the  unsatisfactory  situation  in  which  postoperative

transsexuals

live

in

an

intermediate

zone

as

 

not

 quite  one  gender  or  the  other  is  no  longer

sustainable.”

33.   The European Court  of  Human Rights in the case of  Van 

Kuck v.  Germany (Application No.35968/97 – Judgment  dated 

12.9.2003) dealt with the application alleging that German Court’s 

decisions  refusing  the  applicant’s  claim for  reimbursement  of 

gender reassignment measures and the related proceedings were 

in breach of her rights to a fair trial and of her right to respect for 

her  private life and that  they amounted to discrimination on the 

ground of  her  particular  “psychological  situation”.   Reliance was 

37

placed on Articles 6, 8, 13 and 14 of the Convention for Protection 

of  Human Rights and Fundamental  Freedoms, 1997.   The Court 

held  that  the  concept  of  “private  life”  covers  the  physical  and 

psychological integrity of a person, which can sometimes embrace 

aspects  of  an  individual’s  physical  and  social  identity.   For 

example, gender identifications, name and sexual  orientation and 

sexual  life fall  within the personal  sphere protected by Article 8. 

The  Court  also  held  that  the  notion  of  personal  identity  is  an 

important  principle  underlying  the  interpretation  of  various 

guaranteed rights and the very essence of the Convention being 

respect for human dignity and human freedom, protection is given 

to  the  right  of  transsexuals  to  personal  development  and  to 

physical and moral security.  

34.    Judgments  referred  to  above  are  mainly  related  to 

transsexuals,  who,  whilst  belonging  physically  to  one  sex,  feel 

convinced that  they belong to the other, seek to achieve a more 

integrated  unambiguous  identity  by  undergoing  medical  and 

surgical  operations to adapt  their  physical  characteristic to their 

psychological nature.  When we examine the rights of transsexual 

persons, who have undergone SRS, the test to be applied is not 

the  “Biological  test”,  but  the  “Psychological  test”,  because 

38

psychological  factor  and thinking of  transsexual  has to be given 

primacy  than  binary  notion  of  gender  of  that  person.   Seldom 

people realize the discomfort,  distress and psychological  trauma, 

they  undergo  and  many  of  them undergo  “Gender  Dysphoria’ 

which may lead to mental disorder.    Discrimination faced by this 

group in our society, is rather unimaginable and their rights have to 

be protected, irrespective of chromosomal sex, genitals, assigned 

birth sex, or implied gender role.  Rights of transgenders, pure and 

simple,  like Hijras,  eunuchs,  etc.  have also to be examined,  so 

also their right to remain as a third gender as well as their physical 

and psychological  integrity.    Before addressing those  aspects 

further,  we  may  also  refer  to few legislations  enacted in other 

countries recognizing their rights.

LEGISLATIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES ON TGs

35.   We notice,  following the trend,  in the international  human 

rights  law,  many  countries  have  enacted  laws  for  recognizing 

rights  of  transsexual  persons,  who  have  undergone  either 

partial/complete  SRS,  including  United  Kingdom,  Netherlands, 

Germany, Australia, Canada, Argentina, etc.  United Kingdom has 

passed  the  General  Recommendation  Act,  2004,  following  the 

39

judgment in   Christine Goodwin (supra) passed by the European 

Courts of Human Rights.   The Act is all encompassing as not only 

does  it  provide  legal  recognition  to  the  acquired  gender  of  a 

person,  but  it  also  lays  down  provisions  highlighting  the 

consequences of the newly acquired gender status on their legal 

rights  and  entitlements  in  various  aspects  such  as  marriage, 

parentage, succession, social security and pensions etc.    One of 

the notable features of  the Act is that  it  is not  necessary that  a 

person needs to have undergone or in the process of undergoing 

a SRS to apply under the Act.  Reference in this connection may 

be made to the Equality Act,  2010 (UK) which has consolidated, 

repealed  and  replaced  around  nine  different  anti-discrimination 

legislations including the Sex Discrimination Act, 1986.   The Act 

defines certain characteristics to be “protected characteristics” and 

no  one  shall  be  discriminated  or  treated  less  favourably  on 

grounds that the person possesses one or more of the “protected 

characteristics”.  The Act also imposes duties on Public Bodies to 

eliminate all kinds of discrimination, harassment and victimization. 

Gender reassignment has been declared as one of the protected 

characteristics under the Act, of course, only the transsexuals i.e. 

those  who  are  proposing  to  undergo,  is  undergoing  or  has 

40

undergone the process of the gender reassignment are protected 

under the Act.   

36. In  Australia,  there  are  two  Acts  dealing  with  the  gender 

identity,  (1)  Sex  Discrimination  Act,  1984;  and  (ii)  Sex 

Discrimination Amendment  (Sexual  Orientation,  Gender  Identity 

and Intersex Status) Act, 2013 (Act 2013).  Act 2013 amends the 

Sex Discrimination Act, 1984.   Act 2013 defines gender identity as 

the  appearance  or  mannerisms  or  other  gender-related 

characteristics of a person (whether by way of medical intervention 

or not)  with or without  regard to the person’s designated sex at 

birth.  

  Sections  5(A),  (B)  and  (C)  of  the  2013  Act  have  some 

relevance and the same are extracted hereinbelow:-

“5A  Discrimination  on  the  ground  of  sexual

orientation

 

(1)  For  the  purposes  of  this  Act,  a  person  (the

discriminator)  discriminates  against  another  person

(the aggrieved person) on the ground of the aggrieved

person’s sexual orientation if, by reason of:

(a)  the aggrieved person’s sexual orientation; or

(b)  a  characteristic  that  appertains  generally  to 

persons who have the same sexual orientation as

the aggrieved person; or

(c)  a  characteristic  that  is  generally  imputed  to

persons who have the same sexual orientation as

the aggrieved person;

41

the  discriminator  treats  the  aggrieved  person  less

favourably than, in circumstances that are the same or

are not  materially different,  the discriminator  treats or

would  treat  a  person  who  has  a  different  sexual

orientation.

(2)  For  the  purposes  of  this  Act,  a  person  (the

discriminator)  discriminates  against  another  person

(the aggrieved person) on the ground of the aggrieved

person’s sexual orientation if the discriminator imposes,

or  proposes  to  impose,  a  condition,  requirement  or

practice  that  has,  or  is  likely  to  have,  the  effect  of

disadvantaging  persons  who  have  the  same  sexual

orientation as the aggrieved person.

(3)  This section has effect subject to sections 7B and

7D.

5B  Discrimination on the ground of gender identity

(1)  For  the  purposes  of  this  Act,  a  person  (the

discriminator)  discriminates  against  another  person

(the aggrieved person) on the ground of the aggrieved

person’s gender identity if, by reason of:

(a)  the aggrieved person’s gender identity; or

(b)  a  characteristic  that  appertains  generally  to 

persons who have the same gender identity as the

aggrieved person; or

(c)  a  characteristic  that  is  generally  imputed  to

persons who have the same gender identity as the

aggrieved person;

the  discriminator  treats  the  aggrieved  person  less

favourably than, in circumstances that are the same or

are not  materially different,  the discriminator  treats or

would treat a person who has a different gender identity.

(2)  For  the  purposes  of  this  Act,  a  person  (the

discriminator)  discriminates  against  another  person

(the aggrieved person) on the ground of the aggrieved

person’s gender identity if the discriminator imposes, or 

42

proposes to impose, a condition, requirement or practice

that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging

persons  who  have  the  same  gender  identity  as  the

aggrieved person.

(3)  This section has effect subject to sections 7B and

7D.

5C  Discrimination on the ground of intersex status

(1)  For  the  purposes  of  this  Act,  a  person  (the

discriminator)  discriminates  against  another  person

(the aggrieved person) on the ground of the aggrieved

person’s intersex status if, by reason of:

(a)  the aggrieved person’s intersex status; or

(b)  a  characteristic  that  appertains  generally  to

persons of intersex status; or

(c)  a  characteristic  that  is  generally  imputed  to

persons of intersex status;

the  discriminator  treats  the  aggrieved  person  less

favourably than, in circumstances that are the same or

are not  materially different,  the discriminator  treats or

would treat a person who is not of intersex status.

(2)  For  the  purposes  of  this  Act,  a  person  (the

discriminator)  discriminates  against  another  person

(the aggrieved person) on the ground of the aggrieved

person’s intersex status if the discriminator imposes, or

proposes to impose, a condition, requirement or practice

that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging

persons of intersex status.

(3)  This section has effect subject to sections 7B and

7D.”

Various other  precautions have also been provided under 

the Act.  

43

37.   We may in this respect  also refer  to the European Union 

Legislations on transsexuals.   Recital  3 of  the Preamble to the 

Directive 2006/54/EC of European Parliament and the Council of 5 

July 2006 makes an explicit reference to discrimination based on 

gender  reassignment  for  the first  time in European Union Law. 

Recital 3 reads as under :-

“The Court  of  Justice has held that  the scope of  the

principle of equal treatment for men and women cannot

be confined to the prohibition of discrimination based on

the fact that a person is of one or other sex.  In view of

this purpose and the nature of the rights which it seeks

to safeguard,  it  also applies  to discrimination arising

from the gender reassignment of a person.”

38.   European  Parliament  also  adopted  a  resolution  on 

discrimination against transsexuals on 12

th

 September, 1989 and 

called upon the Member States to take steps for the protection of 

transsexual  persons and to pass legislation to further  that  end. 

Following that  Hungary has  enacted Equal  Treatment  and the 

Promotion of Equal Opportunities Act, 2003, which includes sexual 

identity as one of the grounds of discrimination.   2010 paper on 

‘Transgender Persons’ Rights in the EU Member States prepared 

by the Policy Department  of  the European Parliament   presents 

the specific situation of transgender people in 27 Member States 

of the European Union.  In the United States of America some of 

44

the laws enacted by the States are inconsistent with each other. 

The Federal Law which provides protection to transgenders is The 

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd.  Jr.  Hate Crimes Prevention 

Act,  2009,  which expands the scope of  the 1969 United States 

Federal Hate-crime Law by including offences  motivated by actual 

or  perceived gender  identity.    Around 15 States and District of 

Colombia  in the United States  have  legislations  which  prohibit 

discrimination on grounds of gender identity and expression.  Few 

States have issued executive orders prohibiting discrimination.  

39.   The Parliament  of  South Africa in the year  2003,  enacted 

Alteration of  Sex  Description and Sex  Status Act,  2003,  which 

permits  transgender  persons  who  have  undergone  gender 

reassignment  or  people  whose  sexual  characteristics  have 

evolved naturally or an intersexed person to apply to the Director 

General of the National Department of Home Affairs for alteration 

of  his/her  sex  description  in  the  birth  register,  though  the 

legislation  does  not  contemplate  a  more  inclusive  definition  of 

transgenders.   

40.    The Senate of Argentina in the year 2012 passed a law on 

Gender  Identity  that  recognizes  right  by  all  persons  to  the 

45

recognition of their gender identity as well as free development of 

their  person  according  to  their  gender  identity  and  can  also 

request  that  their  recorded  sex  be  amended  along  with  the 

changes in first name and image, whenever they do not agree with 

the  self-perceived  gender  identity.   Not  necessary  that  they 

seemed  to  prove  that  a  surgical  procedure  for  total  or  partial 

genital  reassignment,  hormonal  therapies  or  any  other 

psychological  or  medical  treatment  had taken place.   Article 12 

deals  with  dignified  treatment,  respecting  the  gender  identity 

adopted by the individual, even though the first name is different 

from  the  one  recorded  in  their  national  identity  documents. 

Further  laws  also  provide  that  whenever  requested  by  the 

individual,  the adopted first  name must be used for summoning, 

recording,  filing,  calling and any  other  procedure or  service  in 

public and private spaces.   

41.   In Germany, a new law has come into force on 5

2013, which allows the parents to register the sex of the children 

as ‘not  specified’  in the case of  children with intersex variation. 

According to Article 22, Section 3 of the German Civil Statutes Act 

reads as follows:-

th

46

 November, 

“If a child can be assigned to neither the female nor the

male sex then the child has to be named without  a

specification”    

42.   The law has also added a category of X, apart from “M” and 

“F” under the classification of gender in the passports. 

Indian Scenario

43. We  have  referred  exhaustively  to  the  various  judicial 

pronouncements  and  legislations  on  the  international  arena  to 

highlight  the fact  that  the recognition of  “sex identity gender”  of 

persons, and “guarantee to equality and non-discrimination” on the 

ground of  gender identity or expression is increasing and gaining 

acceptance in international  law and, therefore, be applied in India 

as well. 

44. Historical  background of Transgenders in India has already 

been dealth in the earlier part of this Judgment indicating that they 

were once treated with great respect, at least in the past, though 

not in the present. We can perceive a wide range of transgender 

related identities,  cultures or experiences which are generally as 

follows:

“Hijras:  Hijras  are  biological  males  who  reject  their

‘masculine’ identity in due course of time to identify either 

47

as  women,  or  “not-men”,  or  “in-between  man  and

woman”,  or  “neither  man  nor  woman”.   Hijras  can  be

considered  as  the  western  equivalent  of

transgender/transsexual  (male-to-female)  persons  but

Hijras have a long tradition/culture and have strong social

ties formalized through a ritual  called “reet” (becoming a

member  of  Hijra  community).   There  are  regional

variations  in  the  use  of  terms  referred  to  Hijras.   For

example,  Kinnars  (Delhi)  and  Aravanis  (Tamil  Nadu).

Hijras may earn through their  traditional  work:  ‘Badhai’

(clapping their hands and asking for alms), blessing newborn

babies,

or

dancing

in

ceremonies.

 

Some

proportion

 

of

 Hijras  engage  in  sex  work  for  lack  of  other  job

opportunities, while some may be self-employed or work

for  non-governmental  organisations.”  (See UNDP India

Report (December, 2010).

Eunuch: Eunuch refers  to an emasculated male and

intersexed to a person whose genitals are ambiguously

male-like  at  birth,  but  this  is  discovered  the  child

previously  assigned  to  the  male  sex,  would  be

recategorized as intesexexd – as a Hijra.

“Aravanis  and  ‘Thirunangi’  –  Hijras  in  Tamil  Nadu

identify  as  “Aravani”.   Tamil  Nadu  Aravanigal  Welfare

Board,  a  state  government’s  initiative  under  the

Department  of  Social  Welfare  defines  Aravanis  as

biological males who self-identify themselves as a woman

trapped in a male’s body.   Some Aravani  activists want

the public and media to use the term ‘Thirunangi’ to refer

to Aravanis.

Kothi – Kothis are a heterogeneous group.  ‘Kothis’ can

be  described  as  biological  males  who  show  varying

degrees of ‘femininity’ – which may be situational.  Some

proportion  of  Kothis  have  bisexual  behavior  and  get

married  to  a  woman.   Kothis  are  generally  of  lower

socioeconomic status and some engage in sex work for

survival.  Some proportion of Hijra-identified people may

also  identify  themselves  as  ‘Kothis’.   But  not  all  Kothi

identified people identify themselves  as transgender  or

Hijras.

48

Jogtas/Jogappas: Jogtas or Jogappas are those persons

who are dedicated to and serve as a servant  of  goddess

Renukha Devi  (Yellamma)  whose temples are present  in

Maharashtra and Karnataka.  ‘Jogta’ refers to male servant

of that Goddess and ‘Jogti’ refers to female servant (who is

also  sometimes  referred  to  as  ‘Devadasi’).   One  can

become  a  ‘Jogta’  (or  Jogti)  if  it  is  part  of  their  family

tradition or  if  one finds a ‘Guru’  (or  ‘Pujari’)  who accepts

him/her as a ‘Chela’ or ‘Shishya’ (disciple).  Sometimes, the

term ‘Jogti  Hijras’ is used to denote those male-to-female

transgender  persons  who  are  devotees/servants  of

Goddess  Renukha  Devi  and  who  are  also  in  the  Hijra

communities.  This term is used to differentiate them from

‘Jogtas’ who are heterosexuals and who may or may not

dress in woman’s attire when they worship the Goddess.

Also,  that  term differentiates them from ‘Jogtis’  who are

biological  females dedicated to the Goddess.   However,

‘Jogti  Hijras’  may  refer  to  themselves  as  ‘Jogti’  (female

pronoun) or Hijras, and even sometimes as ‘Jogtas’.

Shiv-Shakthis:    Shiv-Shakthis are considered as males

who are possessed by or  particularly close to a goddess

and who have feminine gender expression.  Usually, ShivShakthis

 

are inducted into the Shiv-Shakti  community by

senior  gurus,  who teach them the norms,  customs,  and

rituals  to  be  observed  by  them.   In  a  ceremony,  ShivShakthis

 are  married  to  a  sword  that  represents  male

power  or  Shiva (deity).   Shiv-Shakthis  thus become the

bride  of  the  sword.   Occasionally,  Shiv-Shakthis  crossdress

 and  use  accessories  and  ornaments  that  are

generally/socially meant  for  women.   Most  people in this

community belong to lower socio-economic status and earn

for  their  living as  astrologers,  soothsayers,  and  spiritual

healers;  some  also  seek  alms.”   (See  Serena  Nanda,

Wadsworth  Publishing  Company,  Second  Edition

(1999)

45. Transgender  people,  as  a  whole,  face  multiple  forms  of 

oppression  in  this  country.   Discrimination  is  so  large  and 

49

pronounced,  especially in the field of  health care,  employment, 

education,  leave aside social  exclusion.   A detailed study was 

conducted  by  the  United  Nations  Development  Programme 

(UNDP – India)  and submitted a report  in December,  2010 on 

Hijras/transgenders  in  India:  “HIV  Human  Rights  and  Social 

Exclusion”.   The  Report  states  that  the  HIV  Human 

Immunodeficiency Virus and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) 

is now increasingly seen in Hijras/transgenders population.   The 

estimated size of men who have sex with men (MSM) and male 

sex workers population in India (latter presumably includes Hijras/

TG communities) is 2,352,133 and 235,213 respectively.   It  was 

stated  that  no  reliable  estimates  are  available  for  Hijras/TG 

women.   HIV  prevalence  among  MSM  population  was  7.4% 

against the overall  adult HIV prevalence of 0.36%.  It was stated 

recently Hijras/TG people were included under  the category  of 

MSM in HIV sentinel serosurveillance.  It is also reported in recent 

studies  that  Hijras/TG women  have  indicated  a  very  high  HIV 

prevalence (17.5% to 41%)  among them.   Study conducted by 

NACO also highlights a pathetic situation.   Report  submitted by 

NACI,  NACP IV Working Group Hijras TG dated 5.5.2011 would 

indicate that transgenders are extremely vulnerable to HIV.  Both 

50

the reports  highlight  the extreme  necessity  of  taking emergent 

steps  to  improve  their  sexual  health,  mental  health  and  also 

address the issue of social exclusion.  The UNDP in its report has 

made the following recommendations, which are as under:

“Multiple  problems  are  faced  by  Hijras/TG,  which

necessitate  a  variety  of  solutions  and  actions.   While

some actions require immediate implementation such as

introducing  Hijra/TG-specific  social  welfare  schemes,

some  actions  need  to  be  taken  on  a  long-term basis

changing the negative attitude of the general  public and

increasing  accurate  knowledge  about  Hijra/TG

communities.  The required changes need to be reflected

in policies and laws; attitude of the government, general

public and health care providers; and health care systems

and  practice.   Key  recommendations  include  the

following:  

1. Address the gape in NACP-III:  establish HIV sentinel

serosurveillance  sites  for  Hijras/TG  at  strategic

locations; conduct operations research to design and

fine-tune culturally-relevant package of HIV prevention

and care interventions for Hijras/TG;  provide financial

support  for  the formation of  CBOs run by Hijras/TG;

and build the capacity of CBOs to implement effective

rogrammes.

2. Move  beyond  focusing  on  individual-level  HIV

prevention  activities  to  address  the  structural

determinants of  risks and mitigate the impact  of

risks.   For  example,  mental  health counseling,  crisis

intervention (crisis  in relation to suicidal  tendencies,

police  harassment  and  arrests,  support  following

sexual and physical  violence), addressing alcohol and

drug abuse, and connecting to livelihood programs all

need to be part of the HIV interventions.

3. Train health care providers to be competent  and

sensitive in providing health care services (including 

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STI  and HIV-related services) to Hijras/TG as well  as

develop  and  monitor  implementation  of  guidelines

related  to  gender  transition  and  sex  reassignment

surgery (SRS).

4. Clarify the ambiguous legal status of sex reassignment

surgery  and  provide  gender  transition  and  SRS

services (with proper pre-and post-operation/transition

counseling) for free in public hospitals in various parts

in India.

5. Implement  stigma  and  discrimination  reduction

measures at  various  settings  through  a  variety  of

ways: mass media awareness for the general public to

focused training and sensitization for police and health

care providers.

6. Develop action steps toward taking a position on legal

recognition of gender identity of Hijras/TG need to

be taken in consultation with Hijras/TG and other key

stakeholders.  Getting legal  recognition and avoiding

ambiguities  in  the  current  procedures  that  issue

identity documents to Hijras/TGs are required as they

are connected to basic civil  rights such as access to

health and public services, right to vote, right to contest

elections,  right  to  education,  inheritance  rights,  and

marriage and child adoption.

7. Open  up  the  existing  Social  Welfare  Schemes for

needy Hijras/TG and create specific welfare schemes

to  address  the  basic  needs  of  Hijras/TG including

housing and employment needs.

8. Ensure  greater  involvement  of  vulnerable

communities including Hijras/TG women  in  policy

formulation and program development.”

46. Social exclusion and discrimination on the ground of gender 

stating  that  one  does  not  conform  to  the  binary  gender 

52

(male/female) does prevail in India.   Discussion on gender identity 

including  self-identification  of  gender  of  male/female  or  as 

transgender  mostly focuses on those persons who are assigned 

male sex at birth, whether one talks of Hijra transgender, woman 

or  male or  male to female transgender  persons,  while concern 

voiced by those who are identified as female to male trans-sexual 

persons often not properly addressed. Female to male unlike Hijra/

transgender  persons  are  not  quite  visible  in  public  unlike 

Hijra/transgender persons.  Many of them, however, do experience 

violence and discrimination because of their sexual  orientation or 

gender identity. 

INDIA TO FOLLOW INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS

47. International  Conventions and norms are significant  for  the 

purpose  of  interpretation  of  gender  equality.   Article  1  of  the 

Universal  declaration  on  Human  Rights,  1948,  states  that  all 

human-beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Article 

3  of  the  Universal  Declaration  of  Human  Rights  states  that 

everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 6 

of  the International  Covenant  on Civil  and Political  Rights, 1966 

affirms that every human-being has the inherent right to life, which 

53

right  shall  be protected by  law and no one shall  be arbitrarily 

deprived of  his  life.    Article 5 of  the Universal  Declaration of 

Human Rights and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil 

and  Political  Rights  provide  that  no  one  shall  be  subjected  to 

torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

United  Nations  Convention  against  Torture  and  Other  Cruel 

Inhuman  and  Degrading  Treatment  or  Punishment  (dated  24

January, 2008) specifically deals with protection of individuals and 

groups  made  vulnerable  by  discrimination  or  marginalization. 

Para 21 of the Convention states that States are obliged to protect 

from  torture  or  ill-treatment  all  persons  regardless  of  sexual 

orientation  or  transgender  identity  and  to  prohibit,  prevent  and 

provide redress for torture and ill-treatment in all contests of State 

custody  or  control.   Article  12  of  the  Universal  Declaration  of 

Human Rights and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil 

and  Political  Rights  state  that  no  one  shall  be  subjected  to 

“arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or 

correspondence”. 

48. Above-mentioned  International  Human  Rights  instruments 

which are being followed by various countries in the world are 

aimed to protect the human rights of  transgender people since it 

54

th 

has  been  noticed  that  transgenders/transsexuals  often  face 

serious human rights violations, such as harassment in work place, 

hospitals, places of public conveniences, market places, theaters, 

railway stations, bus stands, and so on. 

49. Indian Law,  on the whole,  only recognizes the paradigm of 

binary  genders  of  male  and female,  based on a person’s  sex 

assigned by birth, which permits gender system, including the law 

relating  to  marriage,  adoption,  inheritance,  succession  and 

taxation and welfare legislations.   We have exhaustively referred 

to various articles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human 

Rights, 1948, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and 

Cultural  Rights,  1966,  the  International  Covenant  on  Civil  and 

Political  Rights,  1966  as  well  as  the  Yogyakarta  principles. 

Reference  was  also  made  to   legislations  enacted  in  other 

countries dealing with rights of persons of transgender community. 

Unfortunately we have no legislation in this country dealing with 

the  rights  of  transgender  community.   Due  to  the  absence  of 

suitable legislation protecting the rights  of  the members  of  the 

transgender community,  they are facing discrimination in various 

areas  and  hence  the  necessity  to  follow  the  International 

Conventions to which India is a party and to give due respect to 

55

other  non-binding  International  Conventions  and  principles. 

Constitution makers could not have envisaged that each and every 

human activity be guided,  controlled,  recognized or  safeguarded 

by laws made by the legislature.   Article 21 has been incorporated 

to safeguard those rights and a constitutional  Court  cannot  be a 

mute spectator when those rights are violated, but is expected to 

safeguard  those  rights  knowing  the  pulse  and  feeling  of  that 

community,  though a minority,  especially when their  rights have 

gained universal recognition and acceptance.

50. Article  253  of  the  Constitution  of  India  states  that  the 

Parliament  has the power to make any law for the whole or any 

part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement 

or  convention.   Generally,  therefore,  a legislation is required for 

implementing the international  conventions, unlike the position in 

the United States of America where the rules of international  law 

are applied by the municipal  courts on the theory of their implied 

adoption by the State, as a part of its own municipal law.   Article 

VI, Cl. (2) of the U.S. Constitution reads as follows:

“……..all treaties made, or which shall be made, under

the authority of the united States, shall be the supreme

law of the land, and the judges in every State shall be

bound thereby,  anything in the Constitution or laws of 

any State to the contrary not-withstanding.”

56

51. In the United States,  however,  it  is  open to the courts to 

supersede or modify international law in its application or it may be 

controlled by the treaties entered into by the United States.  But, till 

an Act of  Congress is passed,  the Court  is bound by the law of 

nations, which is part of the law of the land.  Such a ‘supremacy 

clause’  is absent in our Constitution.  Courts in India would apply 

the rules of International law according to the principles of comity of 

Nations, unless they are overridden by clear rules of domestic law. 

See:  Gramophone Company of India Ltd. v. Birendra Bahadur  

Pandey (1984) 2 SCC 534 and Tractor Export v. Tarapore & Co. 

(1969)  3 SCC 562, Mirza  Ali  Akbar  Kashani  v.  United Arab 

Republic   (1966)  1  SCR 391.   In  the  case  of  Jolly  George 

Varghese v. Bank of Cochin (1980) 2 SCC 360, the Court applied 

the above principle in respect of the International Covenant on Civil 

and  Political  Rights,  1966  as  well  as  in  connection  with  the 

Universal  Declaration of  Human Rights.    India has ratified the 

above mentioned covenants, hence, those covenants can be used 

by the municipal  courts as an aid to the Interpretation of Statutes 

by applying the Doctrine of  Harmonization.    But,  certainly,  if  the 

Indian  law  is  not  in  conflict  with  the  International  covenants, 

particularly pertaining to human rights, to which India is a party, the 

57

domestic court can apply those principles in the Indian conditions. 

The  Interpretation  of  International  Conventions  is  governed  by 

Articles 31 and 32 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 

of 1969.   

52. Article 51 of  the Directive Principles of  State Policy,  which 

falls under Part IV of the Indian Constitution, reads as under: 

“Art. 51.  The State shall endeavour to – 

(a)promote international peace and security;

(b)  maintain  just  and  honourable  relations  between

nations;

(c) Foster  respect  for  international  law  and  treaty

obligation in the dealings of organised peoples with

one another; and

(d)Encourage settlement  of  international  disputes by

arbitration.”

53.    Article 51,  as already indicated,  has to be read along with 

Article 253 of  the Constitution.   If  the parliament  has made any 

legislation which is in conflict with the international law, then Indian 

Courts are bound to give effect to the Indian Law, rather than the 

international  law.   However,  in  the  absence  of  a  contrary 

legislation,  municipal  courts  in India would  respect  the rules  of 

international  law.   In  His  Holiness  Kesavananda  Bharati  

Sripadavalvaru v.  State  of  Kerala (1973)  4 SCC 225,  it  was 

58

stated that in view of Article 51 of the Constitution, the Court must 

interpret language of the Constitution, if not intractable, in the light 

of United Nations Charter and the solemn declaration subscribed to 

it  by  India.   In  Apparel  Export  Promotion  Council  v.  A.  K.  

Chopra (1999) 1 SCC 759, it was pointed out that domestic courts 

are under  an obligation  to give due regard  to the  international 

conventions and norms for construing the domestic laws, more so, 

when there is no inconsistency between them and there is a void in 

domestic law.  Reference may also be made to the Judgments of 

this Court in Githa Hariharan (Ms) and another v. Reserve Bank 

of India and another (1999) 2 SCC 228, R.D. Upadhyay  v. State 

of Andhra Pradesh and others (2007) 15 SCC 337 and People’s 

Union for Civil Liberties  v. Union of India and another (2005) 2 

SCC 436.   In  Vishaka and others v.  State of  Rajasthan and 

Others (1997) 6 SCC 241, this Court under Article 141 laid down 

various  guidelines  to  prevent  sexual  harassment  of  women  in 

working places, and to enable gender equality relying on Articles 

11,  24  and  general  recommendations  22,  23  and  24  of  the 

Convention  on  the  Elimination  of  All  Forms  of  Discrimination 

against Women. Any international convention not inconsistent with 

the fundamental rights and in harmony with its spirit must be read 

59

into  those  provisions,  e.g.,  Articles  14,  15,  19  and  21  of  the 

Constitution to enlarge the meaning and content  thereof  and to 

promote  the  object  of  constitutional  guarantee.   Principles 

discussed hereinbefore on TGs and the International Conventions, 

including  Yogyakarta  principles,  which  we  have  found  not 

inconsistent with the various fundamental rights guaranteed under 

the Indian Constitution,  must  be recognized and followed,  which 

has sufficient legal and historical justification in our country. 

ARTICLE 14 AND TRANSGENDERS

54. Article 14 of  the Constitution of  India states that  the State 

shall not deny to “any person” equality before the law or the equal 

protection of the laws within the territory of India.  Equality includes 

the full  and equal  enjoyment  of  all  rights and freedom.   Right  to 

equality has been declared as the basic feature of the Constitution 

and treatment of equals as unequals or unequals as equals will be 

violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.  Article 14 of the 

Constitution also ensures equal  protection and hence a positive 

obligation  on  the  State  to  ensure  equal  protection  of  laws  by 

bringing  in  necessary  social  and  economic  changes,  so  that 

everyone including TGs may enjoy equal  protection of  laws and 

60

nobody is denied such protection.  Article 14 does not  restrict the 

word  ‘person’  and  its  application  only  to  male  or  female. 

Hijras/transgender persons who are neither male/female fall within 

the expression ‘person’  and,  hence,  entitled to legal  protection of 

laws  in  all  spheres  of  State  activity,  including  employment, 

healthcare, education as well  as equal  civil  and citizenship rights, 

as enjoyed by any other citizen of this country.   

55. Petitioners have asserted as well  as demonstrated on facts 

and  figures  supported  by  relevant  materials  that  despite 

constitutional  guarantee  of  equality,  Hijras/transgender  persons 

have  been  facing  extreme  discrimination  in  all  spheres  of  the 

society.   Non-recognition  of  the  identity  of  Hijras/transgender 

persons denies them equal protection of law, thereby leaving them 

extremely vulnerable to harassment, violence and sexual assault in 

public spaces,  at  home and in jail,  also by the police.   Sexual 

assault, including molestation, rape, forced anal and oral sex, gang 

rape and stripping is being committed with impunity and there are 

reliable statistics and materials to support such activities.  Further, 

non-recognition of identity of Hijras /transgender persons results in 

them  facing  extreme  discrimination  in  all  spheres  of  society, 

especially in the field of  employment,  education,  healthcare etc. 

61

Hijras/transgender  persons face huge discrimination in access to 

public spaces like restaurants, cinemas, shops, malls etc.   Further, 

access to public toilets is also a serious problem they face quite 

often.    Since,  there  are  no  separate  toilet  facilities  for 

Hijras/transgender  persons,  they have to use male toilets where 

they are prone to sexual  assault and harassment.  Discrimination 

on the ground of  sexual  orientation or  gender  identity,  therefore, 

impairs equality before law and equal protection of law and violates 

Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

ARTICLES 15 & 16 AND TRANSGENDERS

56. Articles 15 and 16 prohibit discrimination against any citizen 

on certain enumerated grounds, including the ground of ‘sex’.   In 

fact, both the Articles prohibit all forms of gender bias and gender 

based discrimination.   

57. Article 15 states that the State shall not discriminate against 

any citizen, inter alia, on the ground of sex, with regard to 

(a) access  to shops,  public  restaurants,  hotels  and places  of

public entertainment; or 

(b) use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public

resort  maintained  wholly  or  partly  out  of  State  funds  or

dedicated to the use of the general public. 

62

The  requirement  of  taking  affirmative  action  for  the 

advancement  of  any socially and educationally backward classes 

of citizens is also provided in this Article.

58. Article 16 states that there shall  be equality of opportunities 

for all the citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment 

to any office under the State. Article 16 (2) of the Constitution of 

India reads as follows :

“16(2).  No citizen shall,  on grounds only of  religion,

race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or

any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against

in  respect  or,  any  employment  or  office  under  the

State.”

Article 16 not  only prohibits discrimination on the ground of 

sex in public employment, but also imposes a duty on the State to 

ensure that  all  citizens are treated equally in matters relating to 

employment and appointment by the State.

59. Articles 15 and 16 sought  to prohibit  discrimination on the 

basis of sex, recognizing that sex discrimination is a historical fact 

and  needs  to  be  addressed.   Constitution  makers,  it  can  be 

gathered,  gave  emphasis  to  the  fundamental  right  against  sex 

discrimination so as to prevent the direct or indirect attitude to treat 

people differently,  for  the reason of  not  being in conformity with 

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stereotypical generalizations of binary genders.   Both gender and 

biological  attributes  constitute  distinct  components  of  sex. 

Biological  characteristics,  of  course,  include  genitals, 

chromosomes  and  secondary  sexual  features,  but  gender 

attributes  include  one’s  self  image,  the  deep  psychological  or 

emotional  sense  of  sexual  identity  and  character.  The 

discrimination on the ground of  ‘sex’  under  Articles  15 and 16, 

therefore, includes discrimination on the ground of gender identity. 

The expression ‘sex’ used in Articles 15 and 16 is not just limited to 

biological  sex of  male or  female,  but  intended to include people 

who consider themselves to be neither male or female. 

60. TGs have been systematically denied the rights under Article 

15(2) that is not to be subjected to any disability, liability, restriction 

or condition in regard to access to public places.  TGs have also 

not been afforded special provisions envisaged under Article 15(4) 

for  the advancement  of  the socially and educationally backward 

classes  (SEBC)  of  citizens,  which  they  are,  and  hence  legally 

entitled and eligible to get the benefits of SEBC.   State is bound to 

take  some  affirmative action  for  their  advancement  so  that  the 

injustice done to them for centuries could be remedied.  TGs are 

also entitled to enjoy economic, social, cultural  and political  rights 

64

without  discrimination,  because  forms  of  discrimination  on  the 

ground of gender are violative of fundamental freedoms and human 

rights.   TGs have also been denied rights under Article 16(2) and 

discriminated against in respect of employment or office under the 

State on the ground of sex.  TGs are also entitled to reservation in 

the matter of appointment, as envisaged under Article 16(4) of the 

Constitution.   State is bound to take affirmative action to give them 

due representation in public services. 

61. Articles 15(2) to (4) and Article 16(4) read with the Directive 

Principles of  State Policy and various international  instruments to 

which Indian is a party, call for social equality, which the TGs could 

realize, only if facilities and opportunities are extended to them so 

that  they can also live with dignity and equal  status  with other 

genders. 

ARTICLE 19(1)(a) AND TRANSGENDERS

62. Article  19(1)  of  the  Constitution  guarantees  certain 

fundamental  rights,  subject  to the power  of  the State to impose 

restrictions from exercise of those rights.  The rights conferred by 

Article 19 are not  available to any person who is not  a citizen of 

India.  Article 19(1) guarantees those great basic rights which are 

65

recognized and guaranteed as the natural  rights inherent  in the 

status of  the citizen of  a free country.   Article 19(1)  (a)  of  the 

Constitution states that all  citizens shall  have the right to freedom 

of speech and expression, which includes one’s right to expression 

of  his  self-identified  gender.   Self-identified  gender  can  be 

expressed through dress, words, action or  behavior  or  any other 

form.   No restriction can be placed on one’s personal appearance 

or choice of dressing, subject to the restrictions contained in Article 

19(2) of the Constitution.   

63. We may, in this connection, refer to few judgments of the US 

Supreme Courts on the rights of TG’s freedom of expression.  The 

Supreme Court  of  the State of  Illinois in the  City of Chicago v.  

Wilson et al.,  75 III.2d 525(1978) struck down the municipal  law 

prohibiting cross-dressing, and held as follows “-

“the notion that the State can regulate one’s personal

appearance, unconfined by any constitutional strictures

whatsoever, is fundamentally inconsistent with “values

of  privacy,  self-identity,  autonomy  and  personal

integrity  that  …..   the Constitution was  designed to

protect.”

64. In Doe v.  Yunits et al.,  2000 WL33162199 (Mass. Super.), 

the Superior Court of Massachusetts, upheld the right of a person 

66

to wear school  dress that  matches her gender identity as part  of 

protected speech and expression and observed as follows :-

“by dressing in clothing and accessories traditionally

associated with the female gender,  she is expressing

her identification with the gender.  In addition, plaintiff’s

ability  to  express  herself  and  her  gender  identity

through  dress  is  important  for  her  health  and  wellbeing.

 

Therefore,

plaintiff’s

expression

is

not

merely

a

 

personal

 preference  but  a necessary  symbol  of  her

identity.”

65. Principles referred to above clearly indicate that the freedom 

of  expression  guaranteed  under  Article  19(1)(a)  includes  the 

freedom to express one’s chosen gender identity through varied 

ways  and  means  by  way  of  expression,  speech,  mannerism, 

clothing etc.   

66. Gender identity, therefore, lies at the core of one’s personal 

identity,  gender expression and presentation and, therefore, it will 

have to be protected under Article 19(1)(a) of  the Constitution of 

India.   A transgender’s  personality  could  be  expressed  by  the 

transgender’s behavior  and presentation.   State cannot  prohibit, 

restrict  or  interfere  with  a  transgender’s  expression  of  such 

personality,  which  reflects that  inherent  personality.    Often the 

State and its authorities either due to ignorance or otherwise fail to 

digest  the innate character  and identity  of  such persons.   We, 

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therefore,  hold that  values of  privacy,  self-identity,  autonomy and 

personal integrity are fundamental rights guaranteed to members of 

the  transgender  community  under  Article  19(1)(a)  of  the 

Constitution  of  India  and  the  State  is  bound  to  protect  and 

recognize those rights.  

ARTICLE 21 AND THE TRANSGENDERS

67. Article 21 of the Constitution of India reads as follows:

“21.    Protection of life and personal liberty – No

person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty

except according to procedure established by law.”

Article 21 is the heart  and soul  of  the Indian Constitution, 

which speaks of the rights to life and personal liberty.   Right to life 

is one of the basic fundamental rights and not even the State has 

the authority to violate or take away that right.  Article 21 takes all 

those aspects of life which go to make a person’s life meaningful. 

Article  21  protects  the  dignity  of  human  life,  one’s  personal 

autonomy,  one’s right  to privacy,  etc.   Right  to dignity has been 

recognized to be an essential part of the right to life and accrues to 

all  persons on account  of  being humans.    In  Francis Coralie 

Mullin v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi  (1981) 1 SCC 

608 (paras 7 and 8), this Court held that the right to dignity forms 

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an  essential  part  of  our  constitutional  culture  which  seeks  to 

ensure the full development and evolution of persons and includes 

“expressing  oneself  in  diverse  forms,  freely  moving  about  and 

mixing and comingling with fellow human beings”.  

68. Recognition of one’s gender identity lies at the heart of the 

fundamental  right  to  dignity.   Gender,  as  already  indicated, 

constitutes the core of one’s sense of being as well as an integral 

part of a person’s identity.  Legal recognition of gender identity is, 

therefore,  part  of  right  to dignity and freedom guaranteed under 

our Constitution.

69. Article 21, as already indicated, guarantees the protection of 

“personal  autonomy”  of  an individual.    In  Anuj  Garg v.  Hotel  

Association of  India  (2008)  3 SCC 1 (paragraphs 34-35),  this 

Court held that personal autonomy includes both the negative right 

of not to be subject to interference by others and the positive right 

of  individuals  to  make  decisions  about  their  life,  to  express 

themselves and to choose which activities to take part  in.   Self-

determination of gender is an integral  part of personal  autonomy 

and self-expression and falls within the realm of  personal  liberty 

guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.  

69

LEGAL RECOGNITION OF THIRD/TRANSGENDER IDENTITY

70. Self-identified gender can be either male or female or a third 

gender.  Hijras are identified as persons of  third gender and are 

not identified either as male or female.  Gender identity, as already 

indicated, refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female 

or  a transgender,  for  example Hijras do not  identify as female 

because of  their  lack of  female genitalia or  lack of  reproductive 

capability.   This distinction makes them separate from both male 

and female genders and they consider  themselves neither  man 

nor  woman,  but  a “third gender”.   Hijras,  therefore,  belong to a 

distinct socio-religious and cultural  group and have,  therefore,  to 

be considered as a “third gender”,  apart  from male and female. 

State of Punjab has treated all  TGs as male which is not legally 

sustainable.   State  of  Tamil  Nadu  has  taken  lot  of  welfare 

measures  to  safeguard  the  rights  of  TGs,  which  we  have  to 

acknowledge.  Few States like Kerala, Tripura, Bihar have referred 

TGs as “third gender or sex”.  Certain States recognize them as 

“third category”.  Few benefits have also been extended by certain 

other  States. Our  neighbouring countries have also upheld their 

fundamental rights and right to live with dignity.   

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71. The Supreme Court of Nepal in Sunil Babu Pant & Ors. v.  

Nepal Government (Writ Petition No.917 of 2007 decided on 21

December,  2007),  spoke  on  the  rights  of  Transgenders  as 

follows:-

“the fundamental rights comprised under Part II of the

Constitution are enforceable fundamental human rights

guaranteed to the citizens against the State.  For this

reason, the fundamental rights stipulated in Part III are

the rights similarly vested in the third gender people as

human  beings.  The  homosexuals  and  third  gender

people  are  also  human  beings  as  other  men  and

women are, and they are the citizens of this country as

well….   Thus,  the  people  other  than  ‘men’  and

‘women’,  including the people of ‘third gender’  cannot

be  discriminated.  The  State  should  recognize  the

existence of all natural persons including the people of

third gender other than the men and women.   And it

cannot  deprive  the  people  of  third  gender  from

enjoying the fundamental rights provided by Part III of

the Constitution.”

72. The Supreme Court of Pakistan in Dr.  Mohammad Aslam 

Khaki  & Anr.  V.  Senior Superintendent of Police (Operation)  

Rawalpindi & Ors.  (Constitution Petition No.43 of 2009) decided 

on  22

nd

 March,  2011,  had  occasion  to  consider  the  rights  of 

eunuchs and held as follows:-

“Needless to observe that  eunuchs in their rights are

citizens of this country and subject to the Constitution

of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, their rights,

obligations including right to life and dignity are equally

protected.   Thus no discrimination, for any reason, is

possible  against  them  as  far  as  their  rights  and 

71

st 

obligations  are  concerned.   The  Government

functionaries both at  federal  and provincial  levels are

bound to provide them protection of  life and property

and secure their dignity as well, as is done in case of

other citizens.”

73. We may remind ourselves of  the historical  presence of  the 

third gender in this country as well as in the neighbouring countries. 

74. Article 21,  as already indicated,  protects one’s right  of  self-

determination  of  the  gender  to  which  a  person  belongs. 

Determination  of  gender  to  which  a  person  belongs  is  to  be 

decided by the person concerned.  In other words, gender identity 

is  integral  to the  dignity  of  an  individual  and  is  at  the  core  of 

“personal  autonomy”  and  “self-determination”.  Hijras/Eunuchs, 

therefore, have to be considered as Third Gender, over and above 

binary genders under our Constitution and the laws.

75. Articles  14,  15,  16,  19  and  21,  above  discussion,  would 

indicate,  do not  exclude Hijras/Transgenders from its ambit,  but 

Indian law on the whole recognize the paradigm of binary genders 

of  male and female,  based on one’s biological  sex.   As already 

indicated,  we  cannot  accept  the  Corbett  principle  of  “Biological 

Test”,  rather  we  prefer  to  follow the  psyche  of  the  person  in 

determining sex and gender  and prefer  the “Psychological  Test” 

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instead of “Biological Test”.  Binary notion of gender reflects in the 

Indian Penal Code, for example, Section 8, 10, etc. and also in the 

laws related to marriage, adoption, divorce, inheritance, succession 

and  other  welfare  legislations  like  NAREGA,  2005,  etc.   Non-

recognition of  the identity  of  Hijras/Transgenders  in the various 

legislations  denies  them equal  protection  of  law and  they  face 

wide-spread discrimination.  

76. Article 14 has used the expression “person” and the Article 15 

has  used the expression “citizen”  and “sex”  so also  Article 16. 

Article 19 has also used the expression “citizen”.   Article 21 has 

used the expression “person”.    All  these expressions, which are 

“gender neutral” evidently refer to human-beings.  Hence, they take 

within their sweep Hijras/Transgenders and are not as such limited 

to male or  female gender.   Gender  identity as already indicated 

forms the core of one’s personal  self, based on self identification, 

not on surgical or medical procedure.  Gender identity, in our view, 

is an integral part of sex and no citizen can be discriminated on the 

ground of  gender  identity,  including those  who  identify  as  third 

gender.

77. We,  therefore,  conclude that  discrimination on the basis of 

sexual  orientation or  gender  identity includes any discrimination, 

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exclusion,  restriction  or  preference,  which  has  the  effect  of 

nullifying or transposing equality by the law or the equal protection 

of  laws  guaranteed  under  our  Constitution,  and  hence  we  are 

inclined to give various directions to safeguard the constitutional 

rights of the members of the TG community.  

 

A.K. SIKRI,J.

..………………………..J

(K.S. Radhakrishnan)

78. I  have carefully,  and with lot  of  interest,  gone through the 

perspicuous opinion of my brother Radhakrishnan,J.  I am entirely 

in agreement  with the discussion contained in the said judgment 

on all  the cardinal  issues  that  have arisen for  consideration in 

these proceedings. At the same time, having regard to the fact that 

the issues involved are of seminal importance, I am also inclined to 

pen down my thoughts.

79. As is clear, these petitions essentially raise an issue of 

“Gender Identity”, which is the core issue. It has two facets, viz.:

“(a)   Whether  a  person  who  is  born  as  a  male   with

predominantly female orientation (or vice-versa),  has a right

to get himself to be recognized as a female as per his choice

moreso,  when  such  a  person  after  having  undergone 

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operational procedure, changes his/her sex as well;

(b)  Whether  transgender  (TG),  who are neither  males nor

females, have a right  to be identified and categorized as a

“third gender”?

80. We would hasten to add that it is the second issue with which 

we are primarily concerned in these petitions though in the process 

of discussion, first issue which is somewhat inter-related, has also 

popped up.

81. Indubitably, the issue of choice of gender identify has all the 

trappings of a human rights. That apart, as it becomes clear from 

the  reading  of  the  judgment  of  my  esteemed  Brother 

Radhakrishnan,J., the issue is not limited to the exercise of choice 

of gender/sex. Many rights which flow from this choice also  come 

into play,  inasmuch not  giving them the status of  a third gender 

results in depriving the community of TGs of many of their valuable 

rights and privileges which other persons enjoy as citizens of this 

Country.  There  is  also  deprivation  of  social  and  cultural 

participation which results into eclipsing their access to education 

and health services. Radhakrishnan,J. has exhaustively described 

the term ‘Transgender’ as an umbrella term which embraces within 

itself a wide range of identities and experiences including but not 

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limited  to  pre-operative/post-operative  trans  sexual  people  who 

strongly identify with the gender opposite to their biological sex i.e. 

male/ female.  Therein, the history of transgenders in India is also 

traced and while doing so, there is mention of upon the draconian 

legislation  enacted  during  the  British  Rule,  known  as  Criminal 

Tribes Act,  1871 which treated,  per  se,  the entire community of 

Hizra persons as innately ‘criminals’,  ‘addicted to the systematic 

commission of non-bailable offences’.  

82. With these introductory remarks, I revert to the two facets of 

pivotal  importance  mentioned  above.  Before  embarking  on  the 

discussion, I may clarify that my endeavour would be not to repeat 

the  discussion  contained  in  the  judgment  of  my  Brother 

Radhakrishnan,  J.,  as  I  agree with  every  word  written  therein. 

However,  at  times,  if  some of  the observations are re-narrated, 

that  would be only with a view to bring continuity in the thought 

process.

choice.

(1) Re:  Right  of  a person to have the gender  of  his/her 

When  a  child  is  born,  at  the  time  of  birth  itself,  sex  is 

assigned  to  him/her.  A  child  would  be  treated  with  that  sex 

thereafter, i.e. either a male or a female. However, as explained in 

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detail  in  the  accompanying  judgment,  some  persons,  though 

relatively  very  small  in  number,  may  born  with  bodies  which 

incorporate  both  or  certain  aspects  of  both  male  or  female 

physiology. It may also happen that though a person is born as a 

male,  because  of  some  genital  anatomy  problems  his  innate 

perception may be that  of  a female and all  his actions would be 

female oriented. The position may be exactly the opposite wherein 

a person born as female may behave like a male person.

83. In  earlier  times  though  one  could  observe  such 

characteristics, at the same time the underlying rationale or reason 

behind such a behavior was not known. Over a period of time, with 

in depth study and research of  such physical  and psychological 

factors  bevaviour,  the  causes  of  this  behaviour  have  become 

discernable which in turn,  has led to some changes in societal 

norms. Society has starting accepting, though slowly,  these have 

accepted the behavioral norms of such persons without treating it 

as abnormal. Further, medical science has leaped forward to such 

an extent  that  even physiology appearance of  a person can be 

changed through surgical  procedures,  from male to female and 

vice-versa. In this way, such  persons are able to acquire the body 

which is in conformity with the perception of  their gender/gender 

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characteristics.  In order to ensure that law also keeps pace with 

the aforesaid progress in medical science, various countries have 

come out  with Legislation conferring rights  on such persons  to 

recognize  their  gender  identity  based  on  reassigned  sex  after 

undergoing  Sex  Re-Assignment  Surgery  (SRS).  Law  and 

judgments  given  by  the  courts  in  other  countries  have  been 

exhaustively and grandiloquently traversed by my learned Brother 

in  his  judgment,  discussing  amongst  others,  the  Yogyakarta 

principles, the relevant  provisions of  the Universal  Declaration of 

Human  Rights  1948  and  highlighting  the  statutory  framework 

operating in those countries.

84. The genesis of this recognition lies in the acknowledgment of 

another fundamental  and universal  principal  viz. “right  of  choice” 

given  to  an  individual  which  is  the  inseparable  part  of  human 

rights.  It is a matter of historical significance that the 20

is often described as “the age of rights”. 

85. The most important  lesson which was learnt  as a result  of 

Second World War  was  the realization by the Governments  of 

various countries about  the human dignity which needed to be 

cherished  and  protected.  It  is  for  this  reason  that  in  the 

th

78

 Century 

U.N.Charter,  1945,  adopted immediately after  the Second World 

War, dignity of the individuals was mentioned as of core value. The 

almost contemporaneous Universal  Declaration of  Human Rights 

(1948) echoed same sentiments.

86. The underlined message in the aforesaid documents is the 

acknowledgment  that  human  rights  are  individual  and  have  a 

definite  linkage  of  human  development,  both  sharing  common 

vision and with a common purpose.  Respect for human rights is 

the root for human development and realization of full potential of 

each individual, which in turn leads to the augmentation of human 

resources with progress of the nation. Empowerment of the people 

through human development is the aim of human rights.

87. There is thus a universal  recognition that  human rights are 

rights that  “belong”  to every person,  and do not  depend on the 

specifics of  the individual  or  the relationship between the right-

holder  and  the  right-grantor.  Moreover,  human  rights  exist 

irrespective  of  the  question  whether  they  are  granted  or 

recognized by the legal  and social  system within which we live. 

They are devices to evaluate these existing arrangements: ideally, 

these  arrangements  should  not  violate  human  rights.  In  other 

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words,  human  rights  are  moral,  pre-legal  rights.  They  are  not 

granted by people nor can they be taken away by them.

88. In international human rights law, equality is found upon two 

complementary  principles:  non-discrimination  and  reasonable 

differentiation. The principle of non-discrimination seeks to ensure 

that all persons can equally enjoy and exercise all their rights and 

freedoms.  Discrimination  occurs  due  to  arbitrary  denial  of 

opportunities  for  equal  participation.  For  example,  when  public 

facilities and services are set on standards out of the reach of the 

TGs, it  leads to exclusion and denial  of  rights. Equality not  only 

implies  preventing  discrimination  (example,  the  protection  of 

individuals  against  unfavourable  treatment  by  introducing  anti- 

discrimination laws), but goes beyond in remedying discrimination 

against  groups  suffering systematic  discrimination in society.  In 

concrete terms, it  means embracing the notion of  positive rights, 

affirmative action and reasonable accommodation.

89. Nevertheless,  the  Universal  Declaration  of  Human  Rights 

recognizes that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity 

and rights and,  since the Covenant’s provisions apply fully to all 

members of society, persons with disabilities are clearly entitled to 

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the full range of rights recognized in the Covenant. Moreover, the 

requirement contained in Article 2 of the Covenant that the rights 

enunciated will  be exercised without  discrimination of  any  kind 

based on certain specified grounds or other status clearly applies 

to cover persons with disabilities.

90. India attained independence within two years of adoption of 

the aforesaid U.N.Charter and it was but natural that such a Bill of 

Rights would assume prime importance insofar as thinking of the 

members of the Constituent Assembly goes. It in fact did and we 

found chapter on fundamental rights in Part-III of the Constitution. 

It  is not  necessary for  me,  keeping in view the topic of  today’s 

discussion, to embark on detailed discussion on Chapter-III. Some 

of  the provisions relevant  for  our  purposes would be Article 14, 

15,16  and  21  of  the  Constitution  which  have  already  been 

adverted  to  in  detail  in  the  accompanying  judgment.  At  this 

juncture it also needs to be emphasized simultaneously is that in 

addition  to  the  fundamental  rights,  Constitution  makers  also 

deemed it proper to impose certain obligations on the State in the 

form of “Directive Principles of State Policy” (Part-IV) as a mark of 

good  governance.  It  is  this  part  which  provides  an  ideal  and 

purpose to our Constitution and delineates certain principles which 

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are fundamental  in the governance of  the country.  Dr.Ambedkar 

had explained  the  purpose  of  these  Directive  Principles  in the 

following manner (See Constituent Assembly debates):

“The Directive Principles are like the

Instruments  of  Instructions  which  were

issued  to  the  Governor-General  and  the

Governors of Colonies, and to those of India

by the British Government  under  the 1935

Government  of  India  Act.  What  is  called

“Directive Principles” is merely another name

for  the Instrument  of  Instructions.  The only

difference is that they are instructions to the

legislature  and  the  executive.  Whoever

capture power will not be free to do what he

likes with it. In the exercise of it he will have

to respect  these instruments of  instructions

which are called Directive Principles”.

91.   The basic spirit  of  our  Constitution is to provide each and 

every person of the nation equal opportunity to grow as a human 

being, irrespective of race, caste, religion, community and social 

status. Granville Austin while analyzing the functioning of  Indian 

Constitution  in  first  50  years  ha  described  three  distinguished 

strands  of  Indian  Constitution:  (i)protecting  national  unity  and 

integrity,  (ii)establishing the institution and spirit  of  democracy; 

and  (iii)  fostering  social  reforms.  The  Strands  are  mutually 

dependent,  and  inextricably  intertwined  in  what  he  elegantly 

describes  as  “a  seamless  web”.  And  there  cannot  be  social 

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reforms till it is ensured that each and every citizen of this country 

is  able  to  exploit  his/her  potentials  to  the  maximum.  The 

Constitution,  although drafted by the Constituent Assembly,  was 

meant  for the people of  India and that  is why it  is given by the 

people to themselves as expressed in the opening words “We the 

People”.  What  is the most important  gift  to the common person 

given by this Constitution is “fundamental  rights” which may be 

called Human Rights as well.

92.  The concept of equality in Article 14 so also the meaning of 

the  words  ‘life’,  ‘liberty’  and  ‘law’  in  Article  21  have  been 

considerably enlarged by judicial decisions. Anything which is not 

‘reasonable,  just  and  fair’  is  not  treated  to  be  equal  and  is, 

therefore, violative of Article 14.

93.   Speaking for the vision of our founding fathers, in State of  

Karnataka v.  Rangnatha Reddy (AIR 1978 SC 215), this Court 

speaking through Justice Krishna Iyer observed:

               “The social  philosophy of  the

Constitution shapes creative judicial vision

and  orientation.   Our  nation  has,  as  its

dynamic  doctrine,  economic  democracy

sans which  political  democracy  is

chimerical.  We  say  so  because  our

Constitution,  in  Parts  III  and  IV  and 

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elsewhere,  ensouls such a value system,

and the debate in this case puts precisely

this soul  in peril….Our  thesis is that  the

dialectics  of  social  justice  should not  be

missed if the synthesis of Parts III and Part

IV is to influence State action and court

pronouncements.  Constitutional  problems

cannot  be  studied  in  a  socio-economic

vacuum,  since socio-cultural  changes are

the  source  of  the  new  values,  and

sloughing off  old legal  thought  is part  of

the process the new equity-loaded legality.

A judge is a social  scientist in his role as

constitutional  invigilator  and  fails

functionally if  he forgets this dimension in

his complex duties.”

94. While interpreting Art. 21, this Court has comprehended such 

diverse  aspects  as  children  in  jail  entitled to special  treatment 

(Sheela  Barse vs.  Union  of  India [(1986)3  SCC 596],  health 

hazard due to pollution (Mehta M.C. v.  Union of India [(1987) 4 

SCC 463], beggars interest in housing (Kalidas Vs. State of J&K 

[(1987)  3 SCC 430]  health hazard from harmful  drugs (Vincent  

Panikurlangara Vs.  Union of India AIR 1987 SC 990),  right  of 

speedy trial  (Reghubir Singh Vs.  State of Bihar,  AIR 1987 SC 

149),  handcuffing  of  prisoners(Aeltemesh  Rein Vs.  Union  of  

India, AIR 1988 SC 1768), delay in execution of death sentence, 

immediate medical aid to injured persons(Parmanand Katara Vs. 

Union of India, AIR 1989 SC 2039), starvation deaths(Kishen Vs.  

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State of Orissa,  AIR 1989 SC 677),  the right  to know(Reliance 

Petrochemicals Ltd. Vs. Indian Express Newspapers Bombay 

Pvt. Ltd. AIR 1989 SC 190), right to open trial(Kehar Singh Vs. 

State (Delhi Admn.) AIR 1988 SC 1883), inhuman conditions an 

after-care home(Vikram Deo Singh Tomar Vs.  State of  Bihar, 

AIR 1988 SC 1782).

95. A most remarkable feature of this expansion of Art.21 is that 

many of  the non-justiciable Directive Principles embodied in Part 

IV of the Constitution have now been resurrected as enforceable 

fundamental rights by the magic wand of judicial activism, playing 

on Art.21 e.g.

(a) Right to pollution-free water and air (Subhash Kumar Vs. 

State of Bihar, AIR 1991 SC 420).

(b) Right to a reasonable residence (Shantistar Builders Vs. 

Narayan Khimalal Totame AIR 1990 SC 630).

(c)  Right  to  food  (Supra  note  14),  clothing,  decent 

environment  (supra  note  20)  and  even  protection  of  cultural 

heritage  (Ram Sharan  Autyanuprasi Vs.  UOI,  AIR 1989  SC 

549) .

(d)  Right  of  every child to a full  development  (Shantistar 

Builders Vs. Narayan Khimalal Totame AIR 1990 SC 630).

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(e) Right of residents of hilly-areas to access to roads(State 

of H.P. Vs. Umed Ram Sharma, AIR 1986 SC 847).

(f) Right to education (Mohini Jain Vs. State of Karnataka, 

AIR 1992  SC 1858),  but  not  for  a  professional  degree  (Unni  

Krishnan J.P. Vs. State of A.P., AIR 1993 SC 2178).

96. A corollary  of  this  development  is  that  while  so  long  the 

negative language of  Art.21 and use of  the word ‘deprived’  was 

supposed  to  impose  upon  the  State  the  negative  duty  not  to 

interfere with the life or liberty of an individual without the sanction 

of law,  the width and amplitude of this provision has now imposed 

a positive obligation (Vincent Panikurlangara Vs.  UOI AIR 1987 

SC 990) upon the State to take steps for ensuring to the individual 

a better enjoyment of his life and dignity, e.g. –

(i) Maintenance and improvement of public health (Vincent  

Panikurlangara Vs. UOI AIR 1987 SC 990).

(ii)  Elimination of  water  and air  pollution (Mehta M.C.  Vs. 

UOI (1987) 4 SCC 463).

(iii) Improvement of means of communication (State of H.P. 

Vs. Umed Ram Sharma AIR 1986 SC 847).

(iv)  Rehabilitation  of  bonded  labourers  (Bandhuva  Mukti  

Morcha Vs. UOI, AIR 1984 SC 802).

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(v)  Providing human conditions if  prisons (Sher Singh Vs. 

State  of  Punjab AIR  1983  SC  465)  and   protective  homes 

(Sheela Barse Vs. UOI (1986) 3 SCC 596).

(vi)  Providing  hygienic  condition  in  a  slaughter-house 

(Buffalo Traders Welfare Ass. Vs. Maneka Gandhi (1994) Suppl 

(3) SCC 448) .

97. The common golden thread which passes through all  these 

pronouncements is that Art.21 guarantees enjoyment of life by all 

citizens of  this country with dignity,  viewing this human rights in 

terms of human development.

98. The  concepts  of  justice  social,  economic  and  political, 

equality of status and of opportunity and of assuring dignity of the 

individual incorporated in the Preamble, clearly recognize  the right 

of  one  and  all  amongst  the  citizens  of  these  basic  essentials 

designed  to  flower  the  citizen’s  personality  to  its  fullest.  The 

concept  of  equality  helps  the citizens  in reaching their  highest 

potential. 

99. Thus, the emphasis is on the development of an individual in 

all respects. The basic principle of the dignity and freedom of the 

individual  is  common  to  all  nations,  particularly  those  having 

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democratic set up. Democracy requires us to respect and develop 

the free spirit of human being which is responsible for all progress 

in  human  history.  Democracy  is  also  a  method  by  which  we 

attempt  to  raise  the  living  standard  of  the  people  and  to  give 

opportunities to every person to develop his/her personality.  It  is 

founded  on  peaceful  co-existence  and  cooperative  living.  If 

democracy  is  based on the recognition of  the individuality and 

dignity of  man,  as a fortiori  we have to recognize the right  of  a 

human being to choose his sex/gender  identity which is integral 

his/her  personality and is one of  the most  basic aspect  of  self-

determination  dignity  and  freedom.  In  fact,  there  is  a  growing 

recognition that the true measure of development of a nation is not 

economic growth; it is human dignity.

100.   More than 225 years ago, Immanuel Kant propounded the 

doctrine of free will, namely the free willing individual as a natural 

law ideal.  Without  going into the detail  analysis of  his aforesaid 

theory of justice (as we are not concerned with the analysis of his 

jurisprudence) what  we want  to point  out  is his emphasis on the 

“freedom” of human volition.  The concepts of volition and freedom 

are  “pure”,  that  is  not  drawn  from  experience.  They  are 

independent  of  any particular body of  moral  or legal  rules. They 

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are presuppositions of all such rules, valid and necessary for all of 

them.

101.   Over a period of time, two divergent interpretations of the 

Kantian criterion of justice came to be discussed.  One trend was 

an increasing stress  on the maximum of  individual  freedom of 

action as  the end of  law.  This  may  not  be accepted and was 

criticized  by  the  protagonist  of  ‘hedonist  utilitarianism’,  notably 

Benthem. This school of thoughts laid emphasis on the welfare of 

the society rather than an individual  by propounding the principle 

of maximum of happiness to most of the people. Fortunately, in the 

instant  case,  there is no such dichotomy between the  individual 

freedom/liberty we are discussing, as against public good. On the 

contrary, granting the right to choose gender leads to public good. 

The second tendency of  Kantian criterion of  justice was found in 

re-interpreting  “freedom”  in  terms  not  merely  of  absence  of 

restraint but in terms of attainment of individual perfection. It is this 

latter trend with which we are concerned in the present case and 

this  holds  good  even  today.  As  pointed  out  above,  after  the 

Second World War, in the form of U.N.Charter and thereafter there 

is more emphasis on the attainment of individual perfection. In that 

united sense at  least  there is a revival  of  natural  law theory of 

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justice.  Blackstone,  in  the  opening  pages  in  his    ‘Vattelian 

Fashion’  said  that  the  principal  aim of  society  “is  to  protect 

individuals in the enjoyment  of  those absolute rights which were 

vested in them by the immutable laws of nature……”

102.  In fact, the recognition that every individual has fundamental 

right to achieve the fullest potential, is founded on the principle that 

all  round growth of  an individual  leads to common public good. 

After all, human beings are also valuable asset of any country who 

contribute to the growth and welfare of their nation and the society. 

A person who is born with a particular sex and his forced to grow 

up  identifying  with  that  sex,  and  not  a  sex  that  his/her 

psychological behavior identifies with, faces innumerable obstacles 

in growing up. In an article appeared in the magazine “Eye” of the 

Sunday Indian Express (March 9-15, 2014) a person born as a boy 

but with trappings of female ( who is now a female after SRS) has 

narrated these difficulties in the following manner:

“The other  children treated me as a boy,

but  I  preferred  playing  with  girls.

Unfortunately,  grown-ups  consider  that

okay only as long as you are a small child.

The  constant  inner  conflict  made  things

difficult for me and, as I grew up, I began to

dread social interactions”. 

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103.   Such a person, carrying dual  entity simultaneously,  would 

encounter mental and psychological difficulties which would hinder 

his/her  normal  mental  and even physical  growth.  It  is not  even 

easy  for  such  a  person  to  take  a  decision  to  undergo  SRS 

procedure which requires strong mental state of affairs. However, 

once  that  is  decided  and  the  sex  is  changed  in  tune  with 

psychological  behavior,  it  facilitates  spending the life smoothly. 

Even the process of transition is not smooth.  The transition from 

a man to a woman is not an overnight process. It is a “painfully” 

long procedure that requires a lot of patience. A person must first 

undergo hormone therapy and, if possible, live as a member of the 

desired sex for  a while.  To be eligible for  hormone therapy,  the 

person needs at least two psychiatrists to certify that he or she is 

mentally sound,  and schizophrenia,  depression and transvestism 

have to be ruled out  first.  The psychiatric evaluation involved a 

serious a questions on how Sunaina felt, when she got to know of 

her confusion and need for sex change, whether she is a recluse, 

her socio-economic condition, among other things.

104.    In the same article appearing in the “Eye”   referred to 

above, the person who had undergone the operation and became 

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a complete girl,  Sunaina (name changed)  narrates  the benefit 

which ensued because of  change in sex,  in harmony with her 

emotional  and  psychological  character,  as  is  clear  from  the 

following passage in that article: 

“Like many other single people in the city, she

can spend hours watching Friends, and reading

thrillers and Harry Potter.     A new happiness

has taken seed in her and she says it does not

feel  that  she ever  had a male body.  “I  am a

person  who  likes  to  laugh.  Till  my  surgery,

behind  every  smile  of  mine,  there  was  a

struggle.  Now it’s about  time that  I  laughed for

real. I  have never had a relationship in my life,

because  somewhere,  I  always  wanted  to  be

treated as a girl.   Now, that I am a woman, I am

open to  a  new life,  new relationships.  I  don’t

have  to  hide  anymore,  I  don’t  feel  trapped

anymore.  I  love  coding  and  my  job.  I  love

cooking. I am learning French and when my left

foot recovers fully, I plan to learn dancing. And,

for the first time this year, I will vote with my new

name. I am looking forward to that,” she says.

105.    If a person has changed his/her sex in tune with his/her 

gender characteristics and perception ,which has become possible 

because of the advancement in medical science, and when that is 

permitted by in medical  ethics with no legal  embargo,  we do not 

find any impediment, legal  or otherwise, in giving due recognition 

to the gender identity based on the reassign sex after undergoing 

SRS.  

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106.   For these reasons, we are of the opinion that even in the 

absence of  any statutory regime in this country,  a person has a 

constitutional  right  to get  the recognition as male or female after 

SRS,  which was  not  only his/her  gender  characteristic but  has 

become his/her physical form as well.  

(2) Re: Right of TG to be identified and categorized as “third 

gender”.

107.   At the outset, it may be clarified that the term ‘transgender’ 

is used in a wider sense, in the present age.  Even Gay, Lesbian, 

bisexual  are  included  by  the  descriptor  ‘transgender’. 

Etymologically,  the term ‘transgender’  is derived from two words, 

namely ‘trans’ and ‘gender’. Former is a Latin word which means 

‘across’  or  ‘beyond’.  The grammatical  meaning of  ‘transgender’, 

therefore, is across or beyond gender. This has come to be known 

as umbrella term which includes Gay men,  Lesbians, bisexuals, 

and cross dressers within its scope.  However, while dealing with 

the present issue we are not concerned with this aforesaid wider 

meaning of the expression transgender.

108.   It  is  to be emphasized that  Transgender  in India have 

assumed  distinct  and  separate  class/category  which  is  not 

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prevalent in other parts of the World except in some neighbouring 

countries .   In this country,  TG community comprise of   Hijaras, 

enunch, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc.  In Indian 

community transgender are referred as Hizra or the third gendered 

people. There exists wide range of transgender-related identities, 

cultures,  or  experience  –including  Hijras,  Aravanis,  Kothis, 

jogtas/Jogappas,  and Shiv-Shakthis  (Hijras:  They  are biological 

males who reject their masculinity identity in due course of time to 

identify either  as women,  or  ‘not  men’.  Aravanis: Hijras in Tamil 

Nadu identify as ‘Aravani’. Kothi: Kothis are heterogeneous group. 

Kothis can be described as biological  males who show varying 

degrees of  ‘feminity’.  Jogtas/Jogappas: They are those who are 

dedicated to serve as servant  of  Goddess Renukha Devi  whose 

temples are present  in Maharashtra and Karnataka.  Sometimes, 

Jogti  Hijras are used to denote such male-to-female transgender 

persons who are devotees of Goddess Renukha and are also from 

the Hijra community. Shiv-Shakthis: They are considered as males 

who are possessed by or particularly close to a goddess and who 

have feminine gender expression). The way they behave and acts 

differs from the normative gender role of a men and women. For 

them,  furthering life is  far  more difficult  since  such  people are 

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neither  categorized  as  men  nor  women  and  this  deviation  is 

unacceptable to society’s vast  majority.  Endeavour  to live a life 

with dignity is even worse.  Obviously transvestites, the hijra beg 

from merchants  who  quickly,  under  threat  of  obscene  abuse, 

respond to the silent  demands of  such detested individuals.  On 

occasion,  especially  festival  days,  they  press  their  claims  with 

boisterous  and  ribald  singing  and  dancing.(  A  Right  to  Exist: 

Eunuchs and the State in Nineteenth-Century India Laurence W. 

Preston Modern Asian Studies, Vol.21,No.2 (1987), pp.371-387).  

109.   Therefore,  we make it  clear  at  the outset  that  when we 

discuss about  the question of  conferring distinct identity,  we are 

restrictive in our meaning which has to be given to TG community 

i.e. hijra etc., as explained above.  

110.   Their  historical  background and  individual  scenario has 

been stated in detail  in the accompanying judgment  rendered by 

my learned Brother. Few things which follow from this discussion 

are summed up below:

“(a)  Though in the past  TG in India was treated with

great  respect,  that  does not  remain the scenario any

longer.  Attrition in their  status  was  triggered with  the 

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passing of the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 which deemed

the  entire  community  of  Hijara  persons  as  innately

‘criminal’ and ‘adapted to the systematic commission of

non-bailable  offences’.  This  dogmatism  and

indoctrination  of  Indian  people  with  aforesaid

presumption, was totally capricious and nefarious. There

could  not  have  been  more  harm  caused  to  this

community  with  the  passing  of  the  aforesaid  brutal

Legislation during British Regime with the vicious and

savage this mind set.  To add insult  to the irreparable

injury caused,  Section 377 of  the Indian Penal  Code

was misused and abused as there was a tendency,  in

British period, to arrest and prosecute TG persons under

Section 377 merely on suspicion. To undergo this sordid

historical  harm caused to TGs of India, there is a need

for incessant efforts with effervescence.

(b) There may have been marginal  improvement in the

social and economic condition of TGs  in India. It is still

far  from satisfactory and these TGs  continue to face

different  kinds  of  economic  blockade  and  social

degradation. They still face multiple forms of oppression

in  this  country.  Discrimination  qua  them  is  clearly

discernable  in  various  fields  including  health  care,

employment, education, social cohesion etc.

(c) The TGs are also citizens of this country. They also

have equal right to achieve their full potential as human

beings. For  this purpose,  not  only they are entitled to 

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proper  education,  social  assimilation,  access to public

and other places but employment opportunities as well.

The discussion above while dealing with the first issue,

therefore, equally applies to this issue as well. 

111.    We are of the firm opinion that by recognizing such TGs as 

third gender,  they would be able to enjoy their  human rights, to 

which they are largely deprived of for want of this recognition. As 

mentioned above, the issue of transgender is not merely a social 

or  medical  issue  but  there  is  a  need  to  adopt  human  right 

approach towards transgenders which may focus on functioning as 

an interaction between a person and their environment highlighting 

the role of society and changing the stigma attached to them. TGs 

face many disadvantages due to various reasons, particularly for 

gender  abnormality which in certain level  needs to physical  and 

mental disability. Up till recently they were subjected to cruelty, pity 

or charity. Fortunately, there is a paradigm shift in thinking from the 

aforesaid approach to a rights based approach. Though, this may 

be the thinking of  human rights activist,  the society has not  kept 

pace with this shift. There appears to be limited public knowledge 

and  understanding  of  same-sex  sexual  orientation  and  people 

whose gender  identity and expression are incongruent  with their 

biological  sex.  As  a result  of  this  approach,  such  persons  are 

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socially excluded from the mainstream of the society and they are 

denied equal  access to those fundamental  rights and freedoms 

that  the  other  people  enjoy  freely.(See,  Hijras/Transgender 

Women in India: HIV, Human Rights and Social Exclusion, UNDP 

report on India Issue: December, 2010). 

112.   Some  of  the  common  and  reported  problem  that 

transgender most commonly suffer are: harassment by the police 

in public places,  harassment  at  home,  police entrapment,  rape, 

discriminations,  abuse  in  public  places  et.al.   The  other  major 

problems that  the transgender  people face in their  daily life are 

discrimination,  lack  of  educational  facilities,  lack  of  medical 

facilities, homelessness, unemployment, depression, hormone pill 

abuse,  tobacco  and  alcohol  abuse,  and  problems  related  to 

marriage  and  adoption.  In  spite  of  the  adoption  of  Universal 

Declaration  of  Human  Rights  (UDHR)  in  the  year  1948,  the 

inherent  dignity,  equality,  respect and rights of  all  human beings 

throughout  the world,  the transgender  are denied basic  human 

rights. This denial is premised on a prevalent juridical assumption 

that  the  law  should  target  discrimination  based  on  sex  (i.e., 

whether  a person is  anatomically male or  female),  rather  than 

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gender (i.e., whether a person has qualities that society consider 

masculine or feminine (Katherine M.Franke,  The Central  Mistake 

of  Sex  Discrimination  Law:  the  Disaggregation  of  Sex  from 

Gender, 144 U.Pa.Rev.1,3 (1995) (arguing that by defining sex in 

biological terms, the law has failed to distinguish sex from gender, 

and sexual  differentiation from sex discrimination).  Transgender 

people are generally excluded from the society and people think 

transgenderism as  a medical  disease.  Much  like  the  disability, 

which in earlier  times was considered as an illness but  later  on 

looked upon as a right  based approach.  The question whether 

transgenderism  is  a  disease  is  hotly  debated  in  both  the 

transgender and medical-psychiatric communities. But a prevalent 

view regarding this is that transgenderism is not a disease at all, 

but a benign normal variant of the human experience akin to left-

handedness.

113.   Therefore,  gender  identification  becomes  very  essential 

component  which  is  required  for  enjoying  civil  rights  by  this 

community. It is only with this recognition that many rights attached 

to the sexual  recognition as ‘third gender’  would be available to 

this community more meaningfully viz. the right to vote, the right to 

own property, the right to marry, the right to claim a formal identity 

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through a passport and a ration card, a driver’s license, the right to 

education, employment, health so on.

114.   Further, there seems to be no reason why a transgender 

must be denied of basic human rights which includes Right to life 

and  liberty  with  dignity,  Right  to  Privacy  and  freedom  of 

expression,  Right  to Education and Empowerment,  Right  against 

violence,  Right  against  Exploitation  and  Right  against 

Discrimination. Constitution has fulfilled its duty of providing rights 

to transgenders.   Now it’s time for  us to recognize this and to 

extend and interpret the Constitution in such a manner to ensure a 

dignified life of transgender people.  All this can be achieved if the 

beginning is made with the recognition that TG as third gender.

115.   In order to translate the aforesaid rights of TGs into reality, 

it becomes imperative to first assign them their proper ‘sex’. As is 

stated earlier, at the time of birth of a child itself, sex is assigned. 

However, it is either male or female. In the process, the society as 

well as law, has completely ignored the basic human right of TGs 

to give them their appropriate sex categorization. Up to now, they 

have  either  been  treated  as  male  or  female.  This  is  not  only 

improper as it is far from truth, but indignified to these   TGs and 

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violates their human rights.

116.    Though there may not be any statutory regime recognizing 

‘third gender’ for these TGs. However, we find enough justification 

to recognize this right of theirs in natural law sphere. Further, such 

a justification can be traced to the various provisions contained in 

Part  III  of  the  Constitution  relating  to  ‘Fundamental  Rights’.  In 

addition  to  the  powerful  justification  accomplished  in  the 

accompanying opinion of my esteemed Brother, additional  raison 

d’etre for this conclusion is stated hereinafter. 

117.   We are in the age of democracy, that too substantive and 

liberal  democracy.  Such a democracy is not  based solely on the 

rule  of  people  through  their  representatives’  namely  formal 

democracy.  It  also has other  percepts like Rule of  Law,  human 

rights, independence of judiciary, separation of powers etc.

118.   There  is  a  recognition  to  the  hard  realty  that  without 

protection for  human rights there can be no democracy and no 

justification for  democracy.  In this scenario,  while working within 

the realm of  separation of  powers (which is also fundamental  to 

the substantive democracy), the judicial  role is not only to decide 

the dispute before the Court,  but  to uphold the rule of  law and 

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ensure access to justice to the marginalized section of the society. 

It  cannot  be denied that  TGs  belong to the unprivileged class 

which is a marginalized section.

119.   The role of  the Court  is to understand the central  purpose 

and theme of  the Constitution for the welfare of  the society.  Our 

Constitution, like the law of the society, is a living organism.  It is 

based on a factual  and social  realty that  is constantly changing. 

Sometimes a change in the law precedes societal  change and is 

even intended to stimulate it. Sometimes, a change in the law is 

the result in the social realty. When we discuss about the rights of 

TGs in the constitutional  context,  we find that  in order  to bring 

about complete paradigm shift, law has to play more pre-dominant 

role. As TGs in India, are neither male nor female, treating them as 

belonging to either  of  the aforesaid categories,  is the denial  of 

these constitutional rights. It is the denial of social justice which in 

turn has the effect of denying political and economic justice. 

120.   In  Dattatraya Govind Mahajan vs.  State of Maharashtra 

(AIR 1977 SC 915) this Court observed:

“Our  Constitution  is  a  tryst  with

destiny,  preamble with luscent  solemnity in

the words ‘Justice – social,  economic and

political.’  The  three  great  branches  of 

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Government,  as  creatures  of  the

Constitution, must remember this promise in

their fundamental  role and forget  it  at  their

peril, for to do so will be a betrayal of chose

high values and goals which this nation set

for  itself  in  its  objective  Resolution  and

whose elaborate summation appears in Part

IV of the Paramount Parchment. The history

of  our  country’s struggle for  independence

was the story of a battle between the forces

of  socio-economic  exploitation  and  the

masses  of  deprived  people  of  varying

degrees and the Constitution sets the new

sights of  the nation…..Once we grasp the

dharma  of  the  Constitution,  the  new

orientation  of  the  karma  of  adjudication

becomes clear. Our founding fathers, aware

of  our  social  realities,  forged  our  fighting

faith  and  integrating  justice  in  its  social,

economic  and  political  aspects.  While

contemplating the meaning of the Articles of

the Organic Law,  the Supreme Court  shall

not disown Social Justice.”

121.   Oliver  Wendlle  Holmes  said:  “the  life  of  law has  been 

logical; it has been experience”.  It may be added that ‘the life of 

law is not  just  logic or  experience.  The life of  law is renewable 

based on experience and logic,  which  adapted law to the new 

social realty’. Recognizing this fact, the aforesaid provisions of the 

Constitution are required to be given new and dynamic meaning 

with the inclusion of rights of TGs as well. In this process, the first 

and foremost right is to recognize TGs as ‘third gender’ in law as 

well.  This is a recognition of  their  right  of  equality enshrined in 

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Art.14 as well as their human right to life with dignity, which is the 

mandate of the Art.21 of the Constitution. This interpretation is in 

consonance with new social needs. By doing so, this Court is only 

bridging the gap between the law and life and that is the primary 

role  of  the  Court  in  a  democracy.  It  only  amounts  to  giving 

purposive  interpretation  to  the  aforesaid  provisions  of  the 

Constitution so that  it  can adapt  to the changes in realty.  Law 

without  purpose has no raison d’etre.  The purpose of  law is the 

evolution of a happy society. As Justice Iyer has aptly put: 

“The  purpose  of  law  is  the

establishment  of  the welfare of  society

“and  a  society  whose  members  enjoy

welfare  and  happiness  may  be

described  as  a  just  society.  It  is  a

negation  of  justice  to  say  that  some

members,  some  groups,  some

minorities, some individuals do not have

welfare:  on the other  hand they suffer

from ill-fare. So it is axiomatic that law, if

it  is  to  fulfil  itself,  must  produce  a

contented,  dynamic society which is at

once meting out justice to its members.” 

122.  It is now very well recognized that the Constitution is a living 

character;  its  interpretation  must  be  dynamic.  It  must  be 

understood in a way that  intricate and advances modern realty. 

The judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution and by ensuring to 

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grant legitimate right that is due to TGs, we are simply protecting 

the Constitution and the democracy inasmuch as judicial protection 

and democracy in general  and of  human rights in particular is a 

characteristic of our vibrant democracy.

123.   As we have pointed out  above,  our  Constitution inheres 

liberal and substantive democracy with  rule of law as an important 

and fundamental  pillar.  It  has its own internal  morality based on 

dignity and equality of  all  human beings.  Rule of  law demands 

protection  of  individual  human  rights.   Such  rights  are  to  be 

guaranteed to each and every human being.  These TGs,  even 

though  insignificant  in  numbers,  are  still  human  beings  and 

therefore they have every right to enjoy their human rights.

124.   In  National  Human  Rights  Commission  vs.  State  of 

Arunachal Pradesh (AIR 1996 SC 1234), This Court observed:

“We are a country governed by the

Rule  of  Law.  Our  Constitution  confers

certain rights  on every human being and

certain  other  rights  on  citizens.  Every

person is entitled to equality before the law

and equal protection of the laws.”  

125.   The rule of law is not merely public order.  The rule of law is 

social  justice  based on public  order.  The law exists  to ensure 

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proper social life. Social life, however, is not a goal in itself but a 

means to allow the individual  to life in dignity and development 

himself.  The  human  being  and  human  rights  underlie  this 

substantive perception of  the rule of  law,  with a proper  balance 

among  the  different  rights  and  between  human  rights  and  the 

proper needs of society. The substantive rule of law “is the rule of 

proper  law,  which  balances  the  needs  of  society  and  the 

individual.” This is the rule of law that strikes a balance between 

society’s need for political independence, social equality, economic 

development, and internal order, on the one hand, and the needs 

of the individual, his personal liberty, and his human dignity on the 

other. It is the duty of the Court to protect this rich concept of the 

rule of law.

126.   By recognizing TGs as third gender, this Court is not only 

upholding the rule of law but also advancing justice to the class, so 

far deprived of  their legitimate natural  and constitutional  rights. It 

is, therefore, the only just solution which ensures justice not only to 

TGs but also justice to the society as well. Social justice does not 

mean equality before law in papers but to translate the spirit of the 

Constitution,  enshrined in the Preamble,  the Fundamental  Rights 

and the Directive Principles of State Policy into action, whose arms 

106

are long enough to bring within its reach and embrace this right of 

recognition to the TGs which legitimately belongs to them.  

127.   Aristotle opined that treating all  equal  things equal  and all 

unequal  things unequal  amounts to justice. Kant was of the view 

that  at  the basis of  all  conceptions  of  justice,  no matter  which 

culture or religion has inspired them, lies the golden rule that you 

should  treat  others  as  you  would  want  everybody  to  treat 

everybody  else,  including  yourself.  When  Locke  conceived  of 

individual  liberties,  the  individuals  he  had  in  mind  were 

independently rich males. Similarly,  Kant thought of economically 

self-sufficient  males  as  the  only  possible  citizens  of  a  liberal 

democratic state.  These theories may not  be relevant  in today’s 

context as it is perceived that the bias of their perspective is all too 

obvious  to  us.  In  post-traditional  liberal  democratic  theories  of 

justice,  the background assumption is  that  humans  have equal 

value and should,  therefore,  be treated as equal,  as well  as by 

equal laws. This can be described as ‘Reflective Equilibrium’. The 

method of  Reflective Equilibrium was first  introduced by Nelson 

Goodman in ‘Fact,  Fiction and Forecast’  (1955).  However,  it  is 

John Rawls who elaborated this method of Reflective Equilibrium 

by  introducing  the  conception  of  ‘Justice  as  Fairness’.  In  his 

107

‘Theory of Justice’, Rawls has proposed a model of just institutions 

for  democratic  societies.  Herein  he  draws  on  certain  pre-

theoretical  elementary  moral  beliefs  (‘considered  judgments’), 

which he assumes most members of  democratic societies would 

accept.  “[Justice as fairness [….]  tries to draw solely upon basic 

intuitive ideas that  are embedded in the political  institutions of  a 

constitutional  democratic regime and the public traditions of  their 

interpretations. Justice as fairness is a political conception in part 

because it starts from within a certain political tradition. Based on 

this preliminary understanding of  just institutions in a democratic 

society, Rawls aims at a set of universalistic rules with the help of 

which the justice of present formal and informal institutions can be 

assessed.  The ensuing conception of  justice is called ‘justice as 

fairness’. When  we  combine  Rawls’s  notion  of  Justice  as 

Fairness with the notions of  Distributive Justice,  to which Noble 

Laureate  Prof.  Amartya  Sen  has  also  subscribed,  we  get 

jurisprudential  basis  for  doing justice  to the Vulnerable Groups 

which definitely include TGs. Once it is accepted that the TGs are 

also part  of  vulnerable groups  and marginalized section of  the 

society,  we  are only  bringing them within  the fold of  aforesaid 

rights  recognized  in  respect  of  other  classes  falling  in  the 

108

marginalized group. This is the minimum riposte in an attempt to 

assuage the insult  and injury suffered by them so far  as to 

pave way for fast tracking the realization of their human rights.

128.   The aforesaid,  thus, are my reasons for  treating TGs as 

‘third  gender’  for  the  purposes  of  safeguarding  and  enforcing 

appropriately their rights guaranteed under the Constitution. These 

are my reasons in support of our Constitution to the two issues in 

these petitions.

129.    We, therefore, declare:

109

…………………….J.

 (A.K.Sikri)

(1) Hijras, Eunuchs, apart  from binary gender,  be treated

as “third gender” for the purpose of safeguarding their

rights under  Part  III  of  our  Constitution and the laws

made by the Parliament and the State Legislature.  

(2) Transgender persons’ right to decide their self-identified

gender  is  also  upheld  and  the  Centre  and  State

Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of

their gender identity such as male,  female or as third

gender.  

(3)  We direct  the Centre and the State Governments to

take steps to treat them as socially and educationally 

backward classes of  citizens and extend all  kinds of

reservation  in  cases  of  admission  in  educational

institutions and for public appointments. 

(4) Centre and State Governments are directed to operate

separate HIV Sero-survellance Centres  since Hijras/

Transgenders face several sexual health issues.  

(5)  Centre  and  State  Governments  should  seriously

address  the  problems  being  faced  by

Hijras/Transgenders  such  as  fear,  shame,  gender

dysphoria,  social  pressure,  depression,  suicidal

tendencies, social  stigma,  etc. and any insistence for

SRS for declaring one’s gender is immoral and illegal.

(6)  Centre  and  State  Governments  should  take  proper

measures  to  provide  medical  care  to  TGs  in  the

hospitals and also provide them separate public toilets

and other facilities. 

(7) Centre and State Governments should also take steps

for  framing various  social  welfare  schemes  for  their

betterment.

(8)  Centre and State Governments should take steps to

create public awareness so that TGs will feel that they

are also part  and parcel  of  the social  life and be not

treated as untouchables.  

(9)   Centre and the State Governments should also take

measures  to  regain  their  respect  and  place  in  the

society which once they enjoyed in our  cultural  and

social life.  

110

130.   We are informed an Expert  Committee has already been 

constituted to make an in-depth study of the problems faced by the 

Transgender community and suggest measures that can be taken 

by the Government to ameliorate their problems and to submit its 

report with recommendations within three months of its constitution. 

Let  the  recommendations  be  examined  based  on  the  legal 

declaration  made  in  this  Judgment  and  implemented  within  six 

months.

131.     Writ Petitions are, accordingly, allowed, as above. 

New Delhi,

April 15, 2014.

…..………………………J.

(K.S. Radhakrishnan)

………………………….J.

(A.K. Sikri)

111

ITEM NO.1A (For Judgment)   COURT NO.7     SECTION PIL

            S U P R E M E   C O U R T   O F   I N D I A

                         RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

          WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO(s). 400 OF 2012

NATIONAL LEGAL SER. AUTH.                 Petitioner(s)

                 VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ORS.                     Respondent(s)

WITH W.P(C) NO. 604 of 2013

Date: 15/04/2014  These matters were called on for

pronouncement of judgment.

For Petitioner(s) Ms. Anitha Shenoy,AOR

                    Ms. Manju Jetley,AOR

For Respondent(s) Mr. V.N. Raghupathy,AOR

Mr. Suryanarayana Singh,AAG

Mr. Aviral Saxena,Adv.

                    Ms. Pragati Neekhra,AOR

Dr. Manish Singhvi,Adv.

Mr. Irshad Ahmad,Adv.

                    Mr. V.G. Pragasam,AOR

Mr. Manjit Singh,AAG, Haryana

Mrs. Vivekta Singh,Adv.

Mrs. Nupur Chaudhary,Adv.

Mr. Tarjit Singh,Adv.

                    Mr. Kamal Mohan Gupta,AOR

                    Mr. D.S. Mahra,AOR

Mr. Gopal Singh,AOR

                    Mr. Sudarshan Singh Rawat,AOR

                    Mr. P.V. Yogeswaran,AOR

Mr. Anip Sachthey,AOR

                    Mr. Aniruddha P. Mayee,AOR

                    Mr. Sunil Fernandes,AOR

Mr. Abhishek Atrey,AOR

                    Mr. Jogy Scaria,AOR

112

                    Mr. Mishra Saurabh,AOR

Ms. Vanshaja Shukla,Adv.

                    M/s. Corporate Law Group,AOR

                    Mrs. Kirti Renu Mishra,AOR

                    M/s. Arputham,Aruna & Co.,AOR

                    Mr. Anil Shrivastav,AOR

                    Ms. Asha Gopalan Nair,AOR

Mr. B. Balaji,AOR

Mr. Sapam Biswajit Meitei,Adv.

                    Mr. Ashok Kumar Singh,AOR

Mrs. K. Enatoli Sema,Adv.

Mr. Amit Kumar Singh,Adv.

Mr. Balasubramanian,Adv.

Mr. K.V. Jagdishvaran,Adv.

                    Ms. G. Indira,AOR

                    Ms. Hemantika Wahi,AOR

Mr. Mihir,Adv.

Ms. Tripti Tandon,Adv.

Mr. Amritananda Ch.,Adv.

Mr. Mukesh Kumar,Adv.

Ms. Filza Moonis,Adv.

Ms. A. Subhashini,Adv.

Hon'ble Mr. Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan

and Hon'ble Mr. Justice A.K. Sikri pronounced

concurring views in the judgment of the Bench

comprising their Lordships.

The  writ  petitions  are  allowed  in

terms of the signed judgment.

(Narendra Prasad)

Court Master

(Renuka Sadana)

Court Master

 (Signed "Reportable" judgment is placed on the file)

113

 

Vineet Kumar
on 17 April 2014
Published in Constitutional Law
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