Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who are Eunuchs/ Hijra’s/ Jakkas?


Who are Eunuchs/ Hijra’s/ Jakkas?

It is uncommon that we even think twice about who these people are. More so because we believe that these people aren’t worth our time. This thought process happens unconsciously, because we had been led to believe (mostly by ourselves) that they are good for thing. In this blog, I am trying to address the origin of Eunuchs, what they are exactly and the social bearings of these men/women.

The purpose of this blog is to write as much as I can in simple terms without you having to refer back to heavy material.

Who are Eunuchs/ transsexuals/ Hijra’s/ Jakkas?

Biologically, a person is called a eunuch, when mans penis and testicles are cut off, manually. The absence of testicles would curb the production of testosterone (male hormone) and thus female hormone in the body dominates. The absence of testosterone would stop the facial and body hair growth and slowly the voice changes and they start developing breasts.

Don’t get confused with hermaphrodites as they are born this way, with both male and female characteristics and they are sterile. I will briefly explain how they are born with out going deep into details. Human body consist of 46 chromosomes. 23 from female and 23 from male. The last set of chromosome, which is the 23rd will determine the sex of the child.

XX chromosome means a female and XY is for male (I am talking about the segregation of only the last set). When the combination is XXY, hermaphrodites are born. Note that the way the chromosomes separate, XYY combination is not possible.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about this, let me know and I will answer as best as I can.

So basically eunuchs are made and hermaphrodites are born this way.

Origin of Eunuchs in India:

There are numerous books written about eunuch’s origin but I am going to concentrate on Prof R. Nath and Sir Richard Burton’s essays on eunuchs.

The Eunuchs exist from the pre-Mughal (and pre-independent) era of India. Thousands of captured women are kept as slaves and concubines just for the sexual pleasures of the emperors and the rich. When the men were not around, they had to make sure that women do not escape or involve in adultery. If they keep men as guards, there were chances that these guards would sleep with the women. Hence they castrate young, pre-puberty boys to keep as guards for these women.

The Eunuchs thus made enjoy a high status among the society, then, as they serve the emperor and the rich. So, the people who were poor made their sons eunuchs for a (so called) better life. Slowly that had become a family tradition. Even today there are a few people who believe that a Eunuch in a family would bring good luck to the entire family.

Present survival situation:

There is a 4 km stretch in Hyderabad, by the banks of the famous lake called Tank Bund/ “Necklace Road”. When ever I used to go there, without fail, these eunuchs would come begging for money. Trust me; they do not take ‘No’ for an answer. You are better off giving money to them without making a scene.

Apart from begging, they go un-invited to wedding ceremonies, birth rituals etc and they sing and dance and get money in return. These eunuchs are considered lucky for the newly weds and newborns.

Social Stigma:

Eunuchs have their communities are (even today) treated as social outcasts. Unfortunately, most of them have not gone to school and they are not treated at hospitals. Even educated men/women treat them with contempt…To an extent I can understand the contempt. It’s mostly due to ignorance about their history and insensitivity towards their lifestyle, so different from us.

They are not given any regular jobs and are not accepted in any community other than their own. Hence, they are reduced to begging.

I truly hope that next time around, when you see a eunuch, you treat them like a human being.

Good News:

Thanks to a few great people, lately there are hospitals which are specifically open for them. One such hospital I know (courtesy a doctor friend of mine) is in Pondicherry,

There happens to be a matrimonial website as well, especially designed for transgender. This is a very young website, in growing.

My dear reader, education is all it takes to curb the atrocities towards eunuchs. And yet again, education is all it takes to make sure that the barbaric practices are completely…irradiated, like some dreadful disease, unless of course it is taken up by choice.

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