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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
India's first eunuch mayor unseated
Eunuchs hold annual pageants
India's eunuchs have long lived on the fringes of society

The first eunuch mayor to have been elected in India has been unseated by a court over a disagreement about what sex she is.

Kamla Jaan has been mayor of Katni, in central India, since January 2000, and like other eunuchs in India, commonly refers to herself as "she".

But a judge has now ruled that this eunuch is in fact a man, and has no right to occupy a seat reserved for women under a quota system.

For two and a half years, Kamla Jaan has run the city of Katni with an iron hand.

She sank wells, fixed the drains and renovated the bus station.

She told the usual advisory council they weren't needed, and berated those who objected.

Treated with contempt

Kamla Jaan is one of India's so-called "third sex", who number several hundred thousand, and are mainly either castrated men or transvestites.

Shabnam Mausi
Shabnam Mausi - India's first eunuch assembly member

Law in the state of Madhya Pradesh defines some eunuchs as male and some as female, and the judge today agreed with a group of petitioners that had declared Kamla Jaan male.

Traditionally regarded as auspicious, eunuchs nowadays are commonly treated with contempt.

But recently, increasing numbers across India have found an unlikely niche in politics, popular because they stand as independents and are seen by disillusioned voters as a way of snubbing the two biggest parties.

Having no family ties and usually living in communes, they're also able to portray themselves as likely to serve the people rather than their own interests.

Fired by setbacks like this latest one in Katni, eunuchs are now considering forming their own party.

That might provide a new lease of life for one of India's most disadvantaged and downtrodden classes.

See also:

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14 Sep 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
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