Trans and Hijra Empowerment Festival hosted in India


Earlier this month, the third annual Trans and Hijra Empowerment Mela was held in Mumbai, India. The Mela (festival) was hosted by non-profit organization Anam Prem to empower the trans community and to encourage ‘dignified’ modes of income for trans people.

In India, trans people have officially been recognized as a third gender since 2014. The term ‘hijra’ is used to identify eunuchs, intersex or transgender people. While some individuals feel this change isn’t far enough—trans people should be able to identify completely with their chosen gender identity—the legal representation of the trans and hijra community is certainly a step away from the discrimination and invisibility faced y trans people throughout history.

Despite this, trans people are still stigmatised and marginalized. Discrimination leads many of them to seek income through sex work or begging. The festival hoped to showcase the entrepreneurial potential within the trans community, and featured over 250 transgender vendors from across India. Some sold food, some clothes, and others even offered beauty services to festival goers. There were also performances from some of India’s first and most prominent trans artists.

Bobby Mudhuk, one of this year’s vendor’s, said

“About two years ago when we started our business journey we used to go door-to-door to sell our goods but people used to shoo us away...Now people are coming and happily meeting us and buying from us. Some of them are placing orders. We are sending our parcels to people’s homes. A lot of positive change has come.”

The organizers of the event’s Facebook page are a transgender empowerment initiative called “The third ‘I.’” With trans people officially being recognized in India, the initiative encourages the trans community by drawing attention to the third identity as a third “eye” or way of seeing and contributing to the world.

Dominque Brodie