Transgender pop band and dancers shake up India's prejudices

Tue Jul 12, 2016 2:22am EDT
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Transgender people in India have traditionally been an invisible minority in India, seen only at traffic lights begging for alms or blessing newlyweds and newborn babies.

But a pop band of transgender women is on the soundtrack of the latest Bollywood blockbuster, showing that two years after a landmark judgment gave transgender people equal rights, they are more widely accepted, even as jobs are scarce and biases remain.

A song by 6 Pack Band, comprising six transgender women, features in the Salman Khan-starrer "Sultan" released last week. Their other songs, released earlier in the year, have also featured Bollywood stars and had millions of views on YouTube.

"Transgender people are worse off than other minorities in the country - they are not even on the radar," said Ashish Patil, head of Y-Films, an arm of Bollywood production house Yash Raj Films, that put the band together.

"This was an effort to get the community front and center, and get people talking. I decided, why not do it with song and dance, which are so integral to their tradition," he said.

India has about 2 million transgender people. In 2014, the country's Supreme Court ruled that they had equal rights under the law, and granted legal status to the third gender.

Alongside the right to marry and inherit property, they are also eligible for quotas in jobs and educational institutions.

Transgender women, known as hijras, have long been considered auspicious, and their blessings are sought at weddings and births. Yet abuse and exploitation are common.   Continued...