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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 13:13 GMT
Indian court rejects eunuch mayor
Eunuchs at a convention in Bombay
Indian eunuchs traditionally see themselves as women

A court has said eunuchs are still technically men in a controversial ruling set to force a mayor from a job held for women.

The landmark judgement in the central northern state of Madhya Pradesh has thrown the political status of eunuchs throughout India into doubt.

Shabnam Mausi, India's first eunuch MP
Eunuchs have gone into politics, with Shabnam Mausi as the country's first MP
Its immediate effect was to say that Kamla Jaan - a eunuch - did not qualify for mayor of the city of Katni as the post was reserved for a woman.

Ms Jaan made headlines four years ago when she became the first eunuch in India to be elected to the post of mayor, in the city of Katni.

She has been followed by a number of other eunuchs, elected by a public disillusioned with mainstream politics.

Gender blurs

Now she is being forced from office after a lengthy court battle about her gender.

EUNUCHS IN INDIA
Describe themselves as female
Often live in isolated societies
Earn money through singing and dancing
Some are castrated men, others are transsexuals and hermaphrodites
The case has even confused journalists who previously referred to her as "she", and are now uncertain what title to use.

As part of India's reservation system, Katni's mayor must be a woman.

Although Ms Jaan, like most eunuchs in India, dresses as a woman and describes herself as female, the state's high court has upheld an earlier ruling that she is technically male and therefore fails to qualify.

Ms Jaan's medical history is unclear.

Alternative

In India, eunuchs often form close-knit and ostracised communities.

Some are castrated men but others are transsexuals or hermaphrodites who have been rejected by their families.

Traditionally eunuchs earn money by singing and dancing at weddings and births but recently they have also started to enter politics, standing as independents and offering an alternative to mainstream political parties.

Some have argued that because they do not have family connections nor children, they are less likely to be corrupt.

This landmark case marks the first time a eunuch has been disqualified from holding office on the grounds of gender.

See also:

27 Sep 02 | South Asia
29 Aug 02 | South Asia
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14 Feb 02 | South Asia
09 Mar 01 | Media reports
30 Sep 02 | South Asia
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