|"Members of the National Handicapped Party participate in a protest in New Delhi." (EPA)|
By Dean Nelson
The Telegraph, November 10, 2010
"The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has announced it will pay all adult eunuchs in the capital 1000 rupees (£14) per month as an acknowledgement that they suffer as much as other minorities and disadvantaged groups. The corporation had considered hiring eunuchs as tax collectors, but abandoned the idea over concerns about their methods. Under the new scheme, each of the city's 272 councillors has the power to offer pensions to 700 people. Now eunuchs will be eligible for these pensions once they have proved their age and status -- they will also need a medical certificate confirming they no longer have male genitalia. India has an estimated 1.5 million eunuchs, known locally as 'hijras' or 'kinnar,' who are both feared and persecuted throughout the country. Their leaders are campaigning for official recognition as a 'third sex' and reservations for government jobs and university places. Most 'kinnar' are men born with deformed genitals who later undergo dangerous 'village castrations' to complete their transformation, while others are effeminate boys disowned by their families or sent to live with eunuch communities and earn their keep through begging. They were once held in high esteem in India's royal households and during the Mughal period rose to high positions at court. They were trusted to guard the royal harems or zenanas because they posed no sexual threat. Their decline has mirrored that of royalty itself in the subcontinent, and today most make a living by singing and dancing at weddings or soliciting money for 'blessings' from courting couples in public parks. Some have taken a more aggressive turn and openly extort money with threats of violence. The move by Delhi's local government will not give eunuchs enough to live on or abandon their need to continue their 'tolly' collection rounds, but officials hope it will encourage them to reform. 'It's more of a symbolic gesture than an actual help, but certainly it will give them a sense of being a part of the society and help them rehabilitate,' said MCD spokesman Deep Mathur."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]