India's Supreme Court has recognized transgender people as a third gender in an historic ruling, the BBC reports. Said the court: "Transgenders are also citizens of India" and they must be "provided equal opportunity to grow. The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender."
"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female. It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities….
The judges asked the government to treat them in line with other minorities officially categorised as "socially and economically backward", to enable them to get quotas in jobs and education.
"We are quite thrilled by the judgement," Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC. "The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets," she said.
Approximately two million people are said to be transgender, or hijira, in India.
Homosexuality is still criminalized in India after a stunning Supreme Court ruling last year. The court earlier this month offered hope that it would reconsider that ruling after a campaign by activists.