Gendering of Development Data in India


This report was released on June 3, 2020, by the Centre for Internet and Society, Karnataka. The study, which was conducted by Brindaalakshmi.K, aims to explore how development data in India is influenced by gender. It noted that gender in such data continues to be understood within the binary of male and female. 

The interviews for this study were conducted in 2018 and included 19 individuals. The report delves into the process of collecting data and issuing government identity documents, particularly for individuals who do not identify as traditional female and male genders. The report also examines the persisting misrepresentations in data, barriers to accessing both public and private services, and the exclusion of certain individuals from access to information. 

Sumandro Chattapadhyay served as the editor of the report, with additional editorial support provided by Puthiya Purayil Sneha. This research was carried out as part of the Big Data for Development network, which is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada.

This 63-page document is divided into four sections: Introduction (Part 1); Research Method (Part 2); Summary of Finding (Part 3); Appendix: List of respondents (Part 4).


  1. On a global scale, the discourse surrounding gender within development data remains limited to the traditional female and male binary, disregarding inclusivity despite the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Notably, the report underscores the absence of a universal standard for gathering and assessing gender identity data.

  2. The systemic flaws in data collection and welfare program design not only perpetuate exclusion but also exacerbate privacy concerns and threaten the rights of transgender individuals. The overemphasis on data collection without addressing these structural issues not only sidesteps the responsibility to address marginalised communities' needs but also undermines principles of sustainable development and equality. Urgent action is needed to develop sensitive data collection systems that prioritise inclusivity and human rights, ensuring that marginalised groups like the transgender community are not further marginalised by data-driven interventions.

  3. The 2011 Census in India introduced an 'Other' category for gender to include transgender individuals, but it failed to capture the full extent of the transgender population resulting in a significant undercount. This undercount directly affects resource allocation and development programs for the community, casting doubt on the reliability of the data reported under the 'Other' category.

  4. The NALSA verdict of 2014 marked a significant milestone in recognizing the rights of individuals to self-identify their gender, including transgender individuals, aiming at ensuring their equal rights. However, its implementation has faced critiques with many government officials not considering it binding, and some states still requiring 'sex reassignment surgery' for gender identification, posing challenges for many transgender individuals. Additionally, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019 has drawn criticism for its failure to address key issues such as reservations in employment and education.

  5. Concerns about the accuracy of Census data arise from observations indicating that many transgender individuals may have been misclassified as either male or female, resulting in a significant underestimation of the transgender population and hampering resource allocation and the fulfilment of benefits promised by the NALSA judgement. The NALSA judgement, while recognizing the right of individuals to self-identify their gender as female, male, or transgender, does not extend clarity on civil rights such as marriage, divorce, or inheritance, leaving transgender individuals vulnerable to continued discrimination and exclusion.

  6. Transgender individuals frequently encounter administrative and societal obstacles when seeking identity documents that align with their self-identified name and gender. These challenges may involve cumbersome paperwork, legal processes and occasionally demands for proof of medical interventions, which may be inaccessible or unwanted by many trans individuals. The absence of appropriate identity documents can significantly restrict their ability to access essential services such as education, employment, healthcare, and other governmental support. 

  7. The emergence of digital welfare states globally, including in India, relies heavily on data-driven systems for social protection and assistance, potentially leading to exclusion and underrepresentation of marginalised populations, such as transgender individuals. Despite efforts to digitise identity documents and systems, transgender individuals in India face significant challenges accessing welfare services and procuring accurate identity documents due to transphobia, lack of awareness among officials, and limited digital literacy and access, exacerbating their marginalisation. 

    Focus and Factoids by Saismit Naik.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.




Centre for Internet and Society


03 Jun, 2020