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Indian court rules eunuchs are male

©Associated Press
February 5, 2003

JABALPUR, India -- A court in central India has ruled that eunuchs are male, barring them from seeking elected offices reserved for women.

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh state on Monday upheld a lower court ruling barring Kamla Jaan from becoming mayor of the town of Katni because the post was set aside for women to encourage their participation in politics.

The town planned to hold another election. Jaan -- who had been the first eunuch to win public office in India -- will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Eunuchs live on the fringes of India's class-conscious society, surviving by begging and collecting tips for dancing at weddings, blessing newborns and taking part in other ceremonies. Most of India's tens of thousands of eunuchs are castrated as babies or children; a few are born without male genitalia.

Eunuchs, who refer to each other by female pronouns and consider themselves women, are believed by some Hindus to bring good luck. But they are discriminated against in education and barred from government and other high-level jobs.

After independence from Britain in 1947, India launched an affirmative action plan to wipe out caste distinctions. Eunuchs weren't included in the plan.

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