Hijra – Accepting them as they are

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Hijra Habba, the signature event of India HIV/AIDS Alliance requires no introduction in the third gender community and to the related stakeholders. Though it is in its early days, but surely on the right track in creating the desired position in the hearts and minds of the society. Strangely, in spite of the presence of the community since the awareness of civilisation, and with various mentions in ancient texts; the society is far from giving them the due respect and accepting them as they are. Probably the word “Hijra” has been misquoted and misused for so long that there is a certain stigma and fear attached to it.

This came out starkly when I was trying to reach out within my close network for media coverage of Hijra Habba 2017 event. It’s not that I was oblivious of the reluctance that might come but never realised that this attempt will help me unfold a peculiar dynamics of the society which will leave me respecting transgenders and hijras even more, respecting Alliance India even more for enabling them and giving them the required platform.

The contact I reached out to happen to be into print media, he was extremely polite in communicating that the event will be better dealt by a news daily having a page three coverage and was even helpful in suggesting where to reach out to for the same. Given his forte in branding, at the end of the discussion he extended a suggestion to replace the word “Hijra” from “Hijra Habba” to a more acceptable terminology wherein the society will be eager to get involved with. His reason was that taking hijra out from title could lead to have better acceptance amongst the larger section of the society. To him the hearing the word “hijra” creates an immediate repulsion. The society has developed an image of this community and hence it is only the niche segment giving them due respect and recognition, as the larger section still prefer to change the road or pull up the window pane when they see them. I am a part of the marketing team and I understand his intention, his thinking was guided from a typical product branding perspective and there could be a populist solution and a facelift to a non-populist brand.

Does the Hijra community requires a facelift? Does the third gender require a new style of branding?

Sorry, no, they do not require anything of that sort simply because they are not a product, they are human beings, if not more, they possess the same sensitivity like any other so called “man” or “woman”. The word Hijra has been used to paint a picture which has taken away the basic respect this community deserves just like any other human being.

To me, the fight of this community is in creating its position in the society in the same form they are, hence, the word “Hijra” becomes so important. Just like love and respect cannot be conditional, in the same manner they need to be accepted as they are. Our Hijra Habba is a force challenging that very belief system and creating an atmosphere to respect and love them as they are.

The author of this blog is Subhadip Bhattacharya Bhattcharya – Senior Manager- Fundraising

Alliance India