Study on Human Rights of Transgender as a Third Gender


This study was published in February 2017 by the Kerala Development Society (KDS), a policy and development research organisation based in New Delhi. Carried out in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission, government of India, the study examines the difficulties faced by the transgender community in the country. Transgender persons, it notes, are regularly subjected to discrimination and isolation, and denied access to accommodation as well as jobs.

The study evaluates the provisions made for transgender persons under various government schemes for education, health, employment, food, pension and more, and discusses their accessibility. It includes the results of a survey of 900 transgender persons – 450 from Mathura and Bijnor districts of Uttar Pradesh, and the rest from East Delhi and Shahdara tehsil in North East Delhi. Based on this, it presents data on the religion, caste, education, finances and living conditions of transgender persons in the two states. The study aims to provide recommendations to protect and promote the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of transgender persons.

The 135-page publication is divided into six chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Socio-Economic Profile of the Transgender People (Chapter 2); Discriminations and Human Right Violations and Coping Mechanism (Chapter 3); Analysis of Policies and Welfare Schemes for Transgender in India (Chapter 4); Analysis of Laws and Policies for Transgender in Select Foreign Countries (Chapter 5); and Human Rights of Transgender People: Recommendations (Chapter 6).


  1. The population of transgender persons in India, according to the 2011 Census, is about 4.88 lakh. States with the highest populations of trans people are Uttar Pradesh (137,465), Andhra Pradesh (43,769), Maharashtra (40,891), Bihar (40,827) and West Bengal (30,349).

  2. The transgender community is deprived of many of the rights available to cisgender people in the spheres of education, employment, healthcare, voting, family and marriage, and more. They are often victims of violence, sexual assault and harassment in private as well as public spaces, such as workplaces, hospitals, markets, theatres, railway stations and bus stands.

  3. The study notes that transgender rights have only started gaining attention in the modern era, even though they have always existed in society. On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgement (National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India) granting legal and constitutional rights to transgender persons and recognising them as the ‘third gender’.

  4. The study includes survey data for 900 transgender persons in Delhi and UP. It states that 29.11 per cent of respondents in Delhi and 33.11 per cent in UP have never attended school. A very small number of respondents received higher education, with 5.33 per cent in Delhi and four per cent in UP having graduate degrees.

  5. A majority of the respondents – 90.68 per cent in Delhi and 87.12 per cent in UP –  belonged to the Hindu religion. The number of Muslim respondents in Delhi and UP was 8.44 and 12 per cent respectively.

  6. About 32.44 per cent of the 900 respondents belonged to Other Backward Classes, 15.33 per cent to Scheduled Castes and 2.45 per cent to Scheduled Tribes. The rest were from the general category (4.56 per cent), gave no response (21.22 per cent) or were unaware of their caste (24 per cent).

  7. The transgender persons surveyed were employed in various occupations, such as (in descending order) giving blessings and singing (24.44 per cent), street vending or hawking (13.11 per cent), begging (10.44 per cent), miscellaneous work including domestic work (9.56 per cent), sex work (4.56 per cent), work in private sector (4.56 per cent), tailoring (3.44 per cent), working as a beautician (3.22 per cent) and social work (1.44 per cent).  Roughly 15 per cent of respondents were unemployed and 10.23 per cent gave no response.

  8. The study discusses some of the welfare measures enforced in the states, including free housing and higher education scholarships (Tamil Nadu), a separate welfare board (West Bengal), free legal aid, comfort stations and separate toilets (Kerala), pension schemes and old age homes (Karnataka and Rajasthan), the provision of government jobs (Madhya Pradesh), monthly stipends and food subsidies (Delhi), pension, housing and education support (Andhra Pradesh), and counselling and skill development centres (Chhattisgarh).

  9. The report recommends that India follow Argentina's lead and adopt the Yogyakarta Principles – “a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity” outlined by human rights experts in 2006. The Principles support a gender recognition model that allows people to self-identify rather than have medical professionals determine one’s gender at birth. The report also recommends sensitisation programmes to make citizens aware of the rights of the transgender community and emphasises the need for a national policy for the same.

    Focus and factoids by Bristhy Bhandary.

    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.


Kerala Development Society, New Delhi


Kerala Development Society, New Delhi, and National Human Rights Commission, Government of India, New Delhi