THE HIJRA OF KAMATHIPURA


Kamathipura, Mumbai’s fabled red-light district, is a volatile mélange of urban decay, prostitution and child trafficking. Under an enigmatic veil of stigmatisation and supposed clairvoyance, it is within the bowels of this contemporary Sodom & Gomorrah that many Hijra sects etch out a peripheral living. Betwixt and between, the Hijra are ascribed intersexuals who adopt female gender identity. The arteries of Kamathipura house ‘third-gender’ enclaves which conceal Hijra and hermaphrodite communities seeking exile from India’s binary gender system. These enclaves provide an outlet for ‘sexual deviants’ which transcends the prevalent dichotomy of sex and gender that exists in the Indian psyche and forges an unorthodox path to the Hindu concept of ‘personhood’[1]. But it is the socio-economic structure of the nation’s caste system which facilitates the androgynous Hijras somewhat inexorable role within Kamathipura’s sex industry. Ostracised by Indian society, scores of destitute Hijra are driven to open a proverbial ‘pandora’s box’ and submit themselves to Kamathipura’s festering underworld of transgender prostitution.

[1] Nanda, Serena (1998). “Neither Man Nor Woman”: The Hijras of India. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Photographic equipment used throughout this project courtesy of Fernando Badiali and the Exposure Gallery. [Exposure Gallery]