Eunuchs in India

By Christina Lawless, University of Southern Mississippi

People with long hair, make up, and fancy cloths seem to sound like that these people should be girls, but in India there are a group of people called Eunuchs. Eunuchs are a group of men who have been castrated. Most people in India do not like these people but let them do rituals on many things in their life. Eunuchs have a history of being around, rituals they do for many different things, go through a lot of violence, how these men actually decide to become Eunuchs, and how people are trying to change the way of life for the eunuchs now.

Eunuchs have been around for centuries but they were never really talked about. This practice is believed to have started in China at the end of the Ming Dynasty to guard the royal harems (Dutt). Eunuchs are non-existent in China since 1996, but in India there are about one million eunuchs (Dutt).

Life for eunuchs in India is really hard. No one wants to be touched by them, looked at by them, or even converse with them. On a daily basis eunuchs or hijras, what they are called in India, are seen walking around town in groups terrorizing people for money (Dutt). They hunt on pedestrians or passer bys that will give cash rather than be surrounded by these eunuchs. This is not the only way that they get money they also sell their bodies (prostitution) to men. Hijras are separated from the community and live in their own community of only eunuchs. They have certain way of doing things which all result back to their rituals.

Eunuchs have many different rituals that they do for many different reasons. First they have rituals for blessing people’s marriages and new babies. Many people do not want them around their babies but they will stand outside the door making loud noises until they parents of the baby lets them in and is bothered for a large tip(Dutt). Also when the eunuchs sometimes go to bless a baby if it is a boy they will want the baby to grow up as one of them and the parents will give in (Dutt). There is always the question of how these boys become eunuchs and well there is a ritual for that too. They will put the boy in a room for a couple of days and only have opium and milk to live on so that they are heavily intoxicated. Then they will take the boy and hold him down while they tie a rope around the genitalia and with one swift swipe of the blade everything is cut off (Dutt). They make this wound bleed for hours as a sign of draining the manhood and then it is plugged up with a piece of metal or wood so that there is a way for the new women to urinate(Dutt). There are even some communities of eunuchs that push the boy on a rock until the anus bleeds and the droplets of blood are a sign of the first menstruation which makes the boy into a woman (Dutt). This procedure is very gruesome but is what happens every time and many people are happy that this is done to them because after this procedure they can call themselves a women in which they do for the rest of their lives. This could make a person wonder why someone would go through this because there is so much violence committed to these eunuchs just because they are different.

Violence is a major problem with the eunuchs. They have been dealing with this violence from the government for a long time. This can date back to 1897 when an amendment was made that the government has to have a list of every name of the eunuchs to control them from children castration and sexual assault (Narrain). This amendment also states that eunuchs are incapable of being a guardian (Narrain). This law makes the eunuchs angry because they think of themselves as women are the third gender which also makes them humans. With the law doing this is feels that they are basically saying that these eunuchs are not people at all. It makes seem the government is in the wrong but both sides are in the wrong. The eunuchs have been known for taking children and castrating them and the government wanted this to stop but the government took the amendment too far and took a lot of rights that the eunuchs had. Besides the eunuchs that were castrated when they were young there are many that choose to be a eunuch.

The many eunuchs that choose to be eunuchs all have similar stories of why they decided to become a so called woman. Nabanita Dutt a reporter went to one of these eunuch communities and interview many eunuchs and found out why many of them changed. One story is from Lata where she told of when she was younger and a boy in grade school her teacher would take her into a room and sodomise her regularly. She states after awhile she started to enjoy this and by the time she was 17 she regularly had sex with men. In discovering this she was a homosexual because she was a man who was sexually attracted to men. In India homosexuality is something in society that people would get killed for and becoming a eunuch is the only way that she could live freely and be accepted among people like her. After talking to many eunuchs Nabanita soon saw that many of these people showed many homosexual tendencies and realized that this one basically their only chance of survival. Also there are the few that actually have considered themselves women before they even thought of being eunuchs. There is a story of a eunuch written by Siddarth Narrain about how this little boy used to like to wear his mother’s make-up and help her around the house. He talked about how everyone ridiculed him about even his own family. One day he ran away to the closest eunuch community and felt so welcome and comfortable. There are mixed feelings among these communities because they are there for different reasons but they are at least all together in the same situation.

There was a recent report on human rights violations in the transgendered communities reported (Narrain). There is brutal violence committed against the eunuchs everywhere. There are reports of violence in public spaces, police stations, prisons, and even their homes (Narrain). No one has the right to brutally abuse someone just because they are different. It was either their choice to be a eunuch or they were brought up that way. Either way that is the way they wanted to be because that is how they felt they should be or they grew up not knowing any better and could not change the past.

Eunuchs have been around for centuries and are planning on staying around for even longer. They are going to be there and there is nothing anyone can do about it. They have their history and rituals to live with and there is no need for violence. No one is saying that the eunuchs are all perfect because they are not. They need to learn to stop harassing people for money and find ways to earn a living. It might be hard for them now but things are in progress to help the way that they live and the way they are treated.

Works Citied

Dutt, Nabanit. Global Directions Inc.

July 21, 2002

Narrian, Siddarth. Frontline



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