Man enough for a eunuch regiment? | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Man enough for a eunuch regiment?

delhi Updated: Jun 20, 2010 00:22 IST
Sanjib Kr Baruah
Sanjib Kr Baruah
Hindustan Times
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An out-of-the box idea to set up a special army regiment comprising eunuchs has been received with a pinch of salt by community leaders, sexual rights activists and the bureaucracy.

It was Arunachal Pradesh home minister Tako Dabi who sent the proposal to the Union home ministry, defence ministry and the Planning Commission. His reason? “Most eunuchs do not have families and can be selfless… Many of them are physically fit. Yet you find many of them indulging in anti-social activity. A military career will give them a respectable livelihood,” Dabi told HT.

India has an estimated 27 lakh eunuchs. Most of them beg or take up sex work, exposing them to a high risk of HIV infection. Community leaders offer qualified support to the proposal. Sita, president of Kinnar Bharati, one of north India’s biggest eunuch associations, said, “There cannot be any coercion to join the army. Given that, we will be happy as it will provide a good source of livelihood.”

Others question Dabi’s assumptions. Aditya Bandopadhyay, Delhi lawyer and sexual rights activist, said, “Not all eunuchs are selfless and many have families. While the proposal seems well-intentioned, these wrong notions have to be cleared first.”

Gay activist Gautam Bhan said, “Without basic legal protection of the fundamental rights and a range of employment options, such initiatives are wrong.”

“For the hijras, enlisting in the army cannot be totally voluntary unless they have access to other opportunities,” he added.

Rupesh Chettri of the Mitr Trust, an NGO fighting for sexually marginalised groups, said, “This is not an individual decision. It should first be deliberated and discussed threadbare within the community.”

The idea is not finding many takers in the Union home ministry. “There is a common procedure to enter the army. The home ministry is not in favour of a special dispensation just for eunuchs,” said a ministry official.

“While they can be quite sturdy physically, we need to know more about their mental endurance levels before a go-ahead,” said a serving army doctor.

History testifies to that. Gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi said: “Right from the ancient times to Mughal emperors Babar and Akbar, all had a tradition of appointing eunuchs in key roles. Akbar had tried out a few divisions in war. Alauddin Khalji’s key general Malik Kafur was a eunuch.”

But it seems the proposal will have to wait before being drafted into the government’s agenda.