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Indian Supreme Court recognizes transgender people

The transgender community has gained official recognition in India after a Supreme Court decision created a third gender category. Transgender individuals can now identify themselves as such on official documents.

A verdict handed down by the Indian Supreme Court on Tuesday will lead to a third gender option being added to official documents, meaning transgender individuals will no longer be forced to identify themselves as male or female.

"The spirit of the (Indian) Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender," the court said in the decision.

The ruling means the federal and state governments will be directed to include transgendered people in welfare programs aimed at helping the poor overcome social and economic hurdles. These include education and health care programs.

"All documents will now have a third category marked 'transgender,'" said Laxmi Tripathi (pictured above, left), a leading transgender activist who had petitioned the court to make the change back in 2012. "This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us. Today I am proud to be an Indian."

"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan said on Tuesday. "Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights."

Recently, transgender voters in India were given the

option of selecting "other"

as a gender when it came to registering for elections scheduled for May 12. About 28,000 voters selected this option.

mz/pfd (AFP, AP)

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