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Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 17:45 GMT
Eunuchs to enter national politics
Indian eunuchs
There are about 500,000 eunuchs in India
Eunuchs in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are to launch a national political party with membership open to all sexes.

The party is the brainchild of Shabnam Mausi, the country's only eunuch legislator, who won election to the state's assembly last March.

Intellectuals, traders, advocates and doctors who desire "a clean atmosphere in politics" could join the party, said Shabnam.

She said she would apply before the Election Commission of India for national recognition of the party after 26 January.

Traditional beliefs

Shabnam refused to disclose the name of the party, but revealed that the word 'eunuch' will be included.


Shabnam Mausi is India's first eunuch MP
There are thought to be about 500,000 eunuchs, or 'hijras', as they are known in India. Most are men castrated at puberty, but are referred to as 'she.'

It is traditionally believed that their presence protects against evil, and many earn a living by collecting cash gifts from people on occasions like marriages and births.

Groups of hijras dressed in colourful saris with heavy make-up and gaudy jewellery often turn up uninvited at wedding parties and insist on generous cash donations.

Established presence

Eunuchs are an established presence in Madhya Pradesh's political system, with two mayors, one legislator and three senior business executives.

And in November, voters of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh state elected a eunuch, Asha Devi, as mayor.

Observers said her victory marked another step towards social acceptance for a community that has been reviled for centuries.

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See also:

06 Mar 00 | South Asia
Eunuch MP takes seat
30 Apr 99 | South Asia
Eunuchs turn prejudice into cash
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