Hijras are described as eunuchs and hermaphrodites, and they are a subgroup within the transgender community in South Asia. They go beyond Western descriptions of LGBT persons and are better understood as a complex interplay of gender, sexuality, traditions, and kinship. Hijras face social stigma and legal discrimination due to their nonconformance with the gender and sexual norms of hetrosexuality dominant in India’s society. They negotiate their identity through religion and mythology, whereby they undergo rituals of castration and emasculation, by virtue of which they play a significant role in ceremonies and festivals. Previously, legal frameworks like the anti-sodomy law of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the lack of a gender category for the transgender in official government documents resulted in discrimination and marginalization of the Hijra community. They faced harassment and violence from the police, medical establishment, and other individuals, and they experienced systemic exclusion from vital social services like employment and healthcare. Legal reform in India, such as the Supreme Court’s recognizing the transgender community as a “third gender” in 2015 and the decriminalization of sodomy in 2018, have been positive steps to improve the status of Hijras. However, inconsistencies in the definition of transgender persons and ambiguity in operationalizing the self-identification process remain, posing a challenge to effective policy implementation. Sociocultural norms of Hindutva and homophobic ideology are still prevalent, resulting in little improvement in the marginalized status of Hijras and the transgender community in India.
Saatvika Rai and Josephine Kipgen
Ndubueze L. Mbah
As a system of identity, African masculinity is much more than a cluster of norms, values, and behavioral patterns expressing explicit and implicit expectations of how men should act and represent themselves to others. It also refers to more than how African male bodies, subjectivities, and experiences are constituted in specific historical, cultural, and social contexts. African masculinities, as historical subjects embodying distinctive socially constructed gender and sexual identities, have been both male and female. By occupying a masculine sociopolitical position, embodying masculine social traits, and performing cultural deeds socially construed and symbolized as masculine, African men and women have constituted masculinity. Across various African societies and times, there have been multiple and conflicting notions of masculinities, promoted by local and foreign institutions, and there have been ceaseless contestations and synergies among the various forms of hegemonic, subordinate, and subversive African masculinities. Men and women have frequently brought their own agendas to bear on the political utility of particular notions of masculinity. Through such performances of masculinity, Africans have constantly negotiated the institutional power dynamics of gender relations. So, the question is not whether Africans worked with gender binaries, because they did. As anthropologist John Wood puts it, African indigenous logic of gender becomes evident in the juxtaposition, symbolic reversals, and interrelation of opposites. Rather, one should ask, why and how did African societies generate a fluid gender system in which biological sex did not always correspond to gender, such that anatomically male and female persons could normatively occupy socially constructed masculine and feminine roles and vice versa? And how did African mutually constitutive gender and sexuality constructions shape African societies?