Tuesday, March 24, 2009

LIFESTYLE OF EUNUCHS

There are two ways of becoming a hijra. The first is to be born with as an inter-sexual or hermaphrodite, and the second is to be born with a male body but with a feminism gender identity. Most hijras, undergo castration (removal of the testicles). Therefore, traditional hijras today still see ‘the operation’ as the important feature to legitimize one as a “true hijra”. However, today, many hijras do not undergo castration or prefaces hormones, but still regard themselves as part of the hijra community.

People usually dressed in traditional clothes worn by women (shalwar kameez), wearing heavy make ups and high tone colors, emphasis on certain body parts (breasts, hips etc.), exaggerated movements and non verbal gestures including clapping, cracking in decent jokes, vulgar in talk and gestures, indeed these are the stereotype impressions that have developed about the hijras over the ages. Most people make fun of them and call them perverts. These people are subject to laughter, mockery, and ridicule. Yet a serious glance into the lives of these people, show that the struggle I order to exist. These people, who were once the cultural descendants of the courts of the Mughal Empire, now earn their living out of begging, dancing and prostitution.

In Pakistan these hijras live in sizeable communities, divided into clan groups. They live in slums headed by their “Gurus”. Born as boys, they have strong female feeling, some become cross dressers, and others opt for crude surgery (castration). Majority of them leave their families to join eunuch community for their remaining life. The reasons for becoming hijra community are varied. Firstly, it is the very ignorance towards psychological healing of problems in most of the low class families that leads to their children taking shelter in the so called haven of the hijra community. As soon as a child born with sexual deformity begins to show feminish signs or actions, he is alienated from the rest of the family, considered a disgrace on the family and given off to the eunuch community. In other cases, poverty is yet another important reason that forces parents to sell such children to eunuch community.

Eunuchs also marry. A wedding has great significance in the lifestyle of a eunuch. In fact, men often eye eunuchs for marriage at mujras. If a man wants to keep a eunuch like he keeps a female prostitution, he needs to consult the eunuch’s guru. The ceremony takes place at the eunuch’s house and friends of the eunuch participate. The most important ritual of this marriage is the distribution of sweets. The guru picks up a sweet and offers it to the bride and the groom.

Other eunuchs dance, an integral part of the wedding. The dancers are showered with red roses and money. The eunuch-bride wears a red gharara and gold jewellery which the groom brings with him. The guru gives the bride’s hand to the groom and says the magic words, ‘Huqay Tay Huqa, Banda Tujhay Qabool’[1]. The bride and groom both say ‘Qabool Hai’ thrice and the wedding is solemnized. The wedding train then goes to the groom’s house, where he puts a gold ring to his wife.

Some eunuchs pray regularly, but don’t go to mosques. As narrated by Laila, one of our interviewee, ‘We, hijras pray just like all other Muslims. We offer salat, read the Quran and follow Islam like all other Muslims. We are taught all this by our Guru. Though we don’t pray regularly, we do so whenever we get the time’. Eunuchs have their own secret language as well that they use in their business as reported by one of the eunuch we interviewed. The language is close to Persian and is also spoken in Bangladesh and India. For example, they say ‘Karay karo bela hai ga’ or ‘Don’t look at him, the man is rude’.



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