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India Supreme Court Recognizes Transgenders as Third Party

FILE - Participants dance under a a rainbow flag as they attend the sixth Delhi Queer Pride parade, an event promoting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, in New Delhi, November 24, 2013.
India's Supreme Court has granted legal recognition to transgender people, recognizing them as a third gender deserving of equal rights.

The landmark ruling Tuesday directs federal and state governments to include qualifying transgender people in welfare programs for the poor.

All official documents will now be required to have a category marked transgender, in addition to male and female.

Activists praised the ruling, saying it will help grant equal rights to a group long-marginalized in the traditional country.

Speaking outside the court, transgender activist Laxmi Tripathi, who helped file the petition, expressed relief.

"Today, Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice A.K. Sikri said that any nation can progress only after it grants all the rights and human rights to its citizens. The transgenders have been given the biggest right. Today, I feel I am a proud citizen of India," said Tripathi.

Transgender people have a centuries-old history in India, but are often subject to hate crimes and discrimination.

As a result, many find themselves on the fringes of society, becoming poor and resorting to begging or prostitution.

The ruling comes months after India's Supreme Court reinstated a 19th century law criminalizing homosexual sex, in a ruling that outraged gay rights advocates.