Good news from India. A few months after the High Court upheld that country's archaic sodomy law, the court has now ruled that transgender citizens of India must be recognized as a separate third gender.
"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," the Supreme Court's two-judge bench said in its ruling.
"Transgenders are also citizens of India. 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."
A person who is transgender does not identify with the gender stated on their birth certificate.
The court ruling - which came after hearing a petition filed by a group of transgenders demanding equal rights - recognized the community as a marginalized group and directed authorities to implement policies to improve their socio-economic status.
The petitioners' lawyers said that this would mean that all identity documents, including a birth certificate, passport and driving license would recognize the third gender, along with male and female.
The government will also have to allocate a certain percentage of public sector jobs, seats in schools and colleges to third gender applicants, said lawyer Sanjeev Bhatnagar.
Due to their lack of access to jobs and education, many male-to-female transgenders - also known as "hijras" - are forced to work as sex workers or move around in organized groups begging or demanding money.As Joe.My.God points out, India is the third country, after Nepal (2009) and Bangladesh (2013). Germany has become the first European country to recognize "undetermined" as the gender of new born children, but this policy is more about intersexuals than transgender individuals.