India's census counts transgender population for first time

According to the Times of India, India's most recent census yielded the first official count of transgender people, at more than 490,000. Transgender activists in the country estimate this number to be six to seven times higher but were excited, especially, with the results in the 0-6 year old population. Census results say that 55,000 came from parents identifying their children as transgender, legally recognized by the Supreme Court in India as the third gender, traditionally called "hijra." During the voter registration process, only 28,341 people registered as belong to the third gender, but the census clearly indicates a huge inflation in numbers.

One notable finding of the census is the low literacy rate in the transgender community, at 46% in comparison to 74% literacy in the overall population. Anjali Gopalan of the Naz Foundation, an Indian HIV/AIDS awareness organization, suggests a theory:

I am not surprised that the literacy rate is so low because it is not uncommon at all for people of transgender to drop out of school because of the harassment and discrimination they face.

Kalki Subramaniam, transgender activist and founder of the Sahodari Foundation, a transgender advocacy organization in India, said:

This is a beginning and we are proud that the census could draw out part of the truth and establish that the transgender community exists and that their literacy rate is very low. They have also established that transgender children exist. It is now up to the government to bring in policy to ensure that they are not discriminated against and that they enjoy equal rights like any other children.

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