In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India today created the "Third Gender" status for Hijras or transgenders, reports Times of India.
Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.
The SC asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backward.
The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.
The SC said absence of law recognizing hijras as third gender could not be continued as a ground to discriminate them in availing equal opportunities in education and employment.
This is for the first time that the third gender has got a formal recognition. The third gender people will be considered as OBCs, the SC said.
The SC said they will be given educational and employment reservation as OBCs.
The apex court also said states and the Centre will devise social welfare schemes for third gender community and run a public awareness campaign to erase social stigma.
The SC said the states must construct special public toilets and departments to look into their special medical issues.
The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and cannot be discriminated.
The apex court expressed concern over transgenders being harassed and discriminated in the society and passed a slew of directions for their social welfare.
The apex court said that transgenders were respected earlier in the society but situation has changed and they now face discrimination and harassment.
It said that section 377 of IPC is being misused by police and other authorities against them and their social and economic condition is far from satisfactory.
The bench clarified that its verdict pertains only to eunuchs and not other sections of society like gay, lesbian and bisexuals who are also considered under the umbrella term 'transgender'.
The bench said they are part and parcel of the society and the government must take steps to bring them in the main stream of society.
The apex court passed the order on a PIL filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) urging the court to give separate identity to transgenders by recognising them as third category of gender.
Welcoming the Supreme Court decision, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, transgender rights activist said, "the progress of the country is dependent upon human rights of the people and we are very happy with the judgment as the Supreme Court has given us those rights."