HRC Blog

India has at least 490,000 Transgender People: Official Census

Post submitted by Tushar Malik, Global Engagement Fellow.

After the historic passing of a law in April that recognizes transgender people as a third gender and includes provisions for affirmative action, more good news has emerged from India. In the latest findings from census data, it has now been calculated that India currently has 490,000 citizens who identify as transgender. This is the first time a number has been put on India’s transgender community’s population, and is a definitive blow to the Supreme Court judges who, just last year, referred to the LGBTI community as a “minuscule minority.”

With the regressive stance of the Supreme Court in December 2013 when it re-criminalized same-sex activity, LGBTI activists in India are lauding this data. "After the disappointment of the election commission's efforts, this is fantastic news for the transgender community. We were extremely disappointed because during the voter registration process only 28,341 people registered as belonging to the third gender," said Kalki Subramaniam, transgender rights activist and founder of the Sahodari Foundation, while talking to the Times of India, referring to the general elections that took place in April/May 2014.

What is interesting to note is the fact that 55,000 respondents were in the age 0-6, signifying how parents are willing to reveal the gender identity of their children, unthought-of of till a while ago. The figure of 490,000 is based on the number of people who have self-identified as transgender, or those children whose parents identified them as transgender, hence giving scope for the speculation that the actual numbers may be a lot more. Indian culture and history has representations of transgender individuals even in 2000-3000 year old scripts and sculptures.

This census data was also collected in 2011, three years before the Supreme Court decision this year that legally recognized transgender people as a third gender, further adding to the theory that more people are now going to come out and self-identify as transgender. The next census happens in 2021.

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