Neither male nor female

In a wide-ranging, courageous and innovative decision, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a few weeks ago that transgenders, a broad category of persons with varying gender situations, identities and issues, are entitled to the protection of the Indian Constitution. It held in the case of National Legal Services v Union of India and Others that ‘transgenders’ are neither male nor female, but a third gender and that transgenders can answer ‘other’ to any oral or written question officially inquiring about their status, treated as a community discriminated against and have special and defined rights.

The decision reviewed legal developments in India and all over the world including the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, England, Pakistan and other countries. It referred to the recognition of transgenders in ancient India and relied on international conventions against discrimination on the basis of sex, which were applied on the basis that there is no conflict with municipal law, a principle previously upheld in India. In Guyana our constitution actually mandates that our courts must take into account international conventions in their decision-making.

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