Supreme Court of India Recognizes Third Gender

Last week, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India recognized the legal status of transgender individuals, allowing them to identify themselves as members of a third category, neither male nor female.  As a result of this ruling, India’s national and state governments are prohibited from discriminating against members of the transgender community, who will henceforth be entitled to the same educational and hiring preferences as members of the lower castes and other minority groups.

As some observers have noted, it is difficult to reconcile the Supreme Court’s decision to afford legal protections to individuals who identify as transgender with the judgment it entered in December of 2013 reinstating a colonial-era statute that criminalizes homosexual acts.  In the latter case, the Court held that it was up to Parliament, not the judiciary, to repeal the statute.

India is now the third country in Southwest Asia to extend legal recognition to transgender individuals.  In 2007 the Supreme Court of Nepal established a third gender category as part of a wider ruling that invalidated laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Last year Bangladesh began issuing government forms with a third gender category for individuals who do not identify as male or female.

The Supreme Court of India (photo by Legaleagle86 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Georgetown Law Library provides access to the law of India via SCC Online.  This subscription database includes judgments from the Supreme Court of India from 1969 onward, High Court decisions from Indian states and territories, federal statutes and regulations, as well as treatises and other secondary sources.  Users of SCC Online must log in with their Georgetown Law email address.  For optimal search functionality, follow the link to the 2014 (beta) version of SCC Online after logging in.

JUDIS is a free government Web portal for India’s judicial system.  It provides online access to all reported judgments of the Supreme Court of India from its inception in 1950, as well as a selection of High Court opinions from major jurisdictions, including Bombay and Delhi.  Supreme Court judgments published prior to 1994 include headnotes.  JUDIS also enables users to check the status of cases pending in some High Court jurisdictions and provides links to select district court websites.

If you have any questions about using these and other foreign law resources, the reference librarians at the Wolff International and Comparative Law Library would be happy to assist you.

Share or Save: