India's third gender gets own identity in voter rolls


NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Indian election authorities Thursday granted what they called an independent identity to intersex and transsexuals in the country's voter lists.

Before, members of these groups -- loosely called eunuchs in Indian English -- were referred to as male or female in the voter rolls.

But now, they will have the choice to tick "O" -- for others -- when indicating their gender in voter forms, the Indian election commission said in a statement.

"Enumerators and booth-level officers (BLOs) shall be instructed to indicate the sex of eunuchs/transsexuals etc as 'O' if they so desire, while undertaking any house-to-house enumeration/verification of any application," a statement from election authorities said.

India, home to more than 1 billion people, has 714 million registered voters.

Intersexual people are seen as a marginalized community in India. Many end up begging on the streets, becoming prostitutes or earning their livelihood by dancing at celebrations.

In July, an Indian court delivered a landmark ruling legalizing gay sex between consenting partners in the country.

The July verdict meant the law -- Indian penal code section 377, which had previously criminalized consensual homosexual acts between adults -- was partly struck down but remains in place as far as forced homosexual acts are concerned.

It was not clear whether the ruling -- which was later challenged by an astrologer in India's highest court -- would eventually lead to legalization of gay marriages in the country.