In a historic judgment that has wide implications, the Supreme Court of India acknowledged transgenders as a third gender that is neither male nor female and directed the government to ensure that they would get job reservation and facilities, including a voter card, passport and driving licence.
This ruling comes four months after the same court reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex, in a widely criticised decision.
The apex court said the group would be considered as socially and economically backward classes and as such entitled to reservation in jobs.
The Centre and states were also directed to take steps for bringing the community into the mainstream by providing adequate healthcare, education and employment.
Recognising them as third category or third gender, the bench of Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice A K Sikri in their judgment directed the Centre and the state governments to include them for reservation in jobs and education.
"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not merely a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," it said and asked the Centre to treat transgenders as "socially and economically backward," to enable them to get reservations in jobs and education.
"Transgenders are also citizens of India. It is the right of every human being to choose their gender. The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender," the court said.