In a significant step, the Supreme Court on Tuesday recognised the transgender community as a third gender along with male and female.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri, in separate but concurrent judgments, said “eunuchs, apart from the binary gender, be treated as a “third gender” for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under our Constitution and the laws made by Parliament and the State Legislature.” The ruling came on a petition filed by the National Legal Services Authority.

The Bench directed the Centre and States to take steps to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes and extend reservation for admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.

The Bench said “recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue. Transgenders are also citizens of India. 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.”

By virtue of this verdict, all identity documents, including a birth certificate, passport, ration card and driving licence would recognise the third gender.

The Bench said gender identification is essential. It is only with this recognition that many rights such as the right to vote, own property and marry will be meaningful.

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