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Pakistan’s Transgenders In A Category Of Their Own

This year, hijras won a key legal battle to have a third gender option on national ID cards. About 50,000 Pakistanis are classified as hijras like Mehvish. The category includes self-reported transgender men and women, as well as transvestites, hermaphrodites and eunuchs.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

8th September 2012 06:20

Alessia Valenza

Mehvish is a hijra, the South Asian term for a transgender woman. They trace their presence back to at least the 16th century, when eunuchs served as entertainers and guards in Mogul courts. The word means "leaving one’s own tribe" — or in this case, gender group — in several Asian and Middle Eastern languages.

In Pakistan, transgender women have long been considered good luck for both newborns and newlyweds — and perform both at baby showers and weddings. Despite this, they continue to face discrimination in this otherwise conservative Muslim country.

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