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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Can eunuchs get insurance?
By Geeta Pandey
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Angry eunuchs in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are protesting against a state-run insurance company which they allege has refused to issue an insurance policy to a eunuch.

Eunuchs in India
Indian eunuchs usually live on the margins of society
A spokesman for the firm, the Life Insurance Corporation, has denied the allegation.

The eunuch, Janaki, says she was surprised when the company turned down her request for insurance cover.

She alleges that her request was rejected because of the ambiguity about her gender.


Janaki makes a meagre living by predicting people's future in a village near the town of Vellore in Tamil Nadu. She is deeply angry at the moment.

She argues that the insurance firm's policies cover damage and loss to sheep, cows, crops and even buildings.

She wants to know that if she is eligible to vote, and have a ration card, why can't she get insurance cover?

A spokesman for the Life Insurance Corporation at their headquarters in Bombay (Mumbai) has denied that eunuchs will not be sold insurance.

But a senior official who requested anonymity told the BBC that, according to the company rules, only men or women can apply for insurance.

He said that, going strictly by the rules, applications from eunuchs are normally rejected.

Janaki says if the matter is not sorted out within three months, she will go to court.

Living on the margins

There are estimated to be about 500,000 eunuchs, hermaphrodites and transvestites in India.

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

But now with the decline in their traditional roles, most eunuchs are forced to work as commercial sex workers.

In recent times, there have been some positive tales too - some eunuchs have contested elections and entered the public arena.

But these success stories are rare, and it will still be a long time before the eunuchs can expect some sort of social acceptance.

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