India’s top court on Tuesday issued a landmark verdict recognizing transgender rights as human rights, saying people can identify themselves as a third gender on official documents.
The Supreme Court directed the federal and state governments to include transgendered people in all welfare programs for the poor, including education, health care and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges. Previously, transgendered Indians could only identify themselves as male or female in all official documents.
The decision was praised as giving relief to the estimated 3 million Indians who are transgender.
The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.
“All documents will now have a third category marked ‘transgender.’ This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us. Today I am proud to be an Indian,” said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender activist who, along with a legal agency, had petitioned the court.
The court’s decision would apply to individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.
The United Nations has condemned Brunei for adopting a new penal code that calls for death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.
It has long been a crime in Brunei, but the maximum punishment had been a 10-year prison sentence.
However, Brunei, a predominately Muslim state, has now adopted a new penal code that calls for death by stoning for consenting same-sex sexual activity, adultery, rape, extramarital sexual relations, and for declaring oneself to be non-Muslim.
The new penal code will come into effect on 22 April.
“Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder are the other offences for which the death penalty could be applied under the revised code.
Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.
“Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” Mr Colville stated.