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Monday, September 13, 2004

The Hijras of Pakistan

Queen: a journal of rhetoric and power

The Hijras of Pakistan
by Dennis Drenner

On the bottom rungs of Pakistan's social ladder, the eunuch-transvestites or "Hijras" scrape out a hard existence. Cultural descendants of the court eunuchs of the Mughal Empire (1526-1858), the Hijras now earn their living as beggars, dancers and prostitutes. Though often reported on in India, the Hijras of Pakistan are relatively unknown outside of that country. Most Pakistani cities have sizable Hijra communities, divided into clan groups living mostly in slums and presided over by a leader or guru. Hijra means hermaphrodite in Urdu, but most Hijras are homosexual transvestites, some of whom have gone through a crude sex-change operation. The Hijras are both feared and pitied in Pakistan, feared for their supposed ability to place curses, pitied for being outcast children of Allah. Most Hijras leave or are ejected from traditional Pakistani families around puberty and then join the Hijra community for life. Many have also reported that Hijras will kidnap young men, forcibly castrate them and force them into prostitution, gaining income for the community. More Hijras, however, earn their living by begging, and by dancing at carnivals, weddings and births. Hijras are especially apt to visit the families of recently born male children where they are paid to give blessings--or to simply go away.


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Blogger tracy said...

interesting article.

5:07 pm  
Blogger rachel said...

Thank you honey, I aim to please.

6:36 pm  

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