The past two years, 2014 and 2015, have been big years for the transgender community in India. In April 2014, the government finally recognised transgender individuals as being part of a third gender and allowed them special status to help gain education and find employment under the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014.
In September the country got its first transgender news anchor Padmini Prakash. In 2015, Madhu Bai Kinnar became the first transgender mayor of an Indian city and in June, the country got its first transgender principal. Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay took up the position at Krishnagar Women's College in Kolkata in the east Indian state of West Bengal.
While the topic of transgender people is now being openly discussed in political and academic spheres, organisations are working to offer the community a chance at social equality as well. In keeping with this, Y-Films, the youth wing of popular production house Yash Raj Films has released a video featuring India's first transgender pop group 6 Pack Band.
The six singers Asha Jagtap, Bhavika Patil, Chandni Suvarnakar, Fida Khan, Komal Jagtap and Ravina Jagtap perform their own Indian flavoured rendition of Pharrell Williams' Happy, titled Hum Hain Happy (We Are Happy).
Actress Anushka Sharma lends her voice to the video, introducing the group. In a statement she said, "I believe that all living beings should be treated with the same respect and dignity. This song is one way to get everyone to tune in to that one thought and beat. Because often where words fail, music speaks."
The band will release a total of six tracks curated by composer Shameer Tandon. Each song will have a video. The band's next track will feature Bollywood playback singer Sonu Nigam. "We are taking one step at a time. There are total six songs. I felt very happy singing with them. They were singing my songs all the time; they have a very good vibe. I really enjoyed their innocence and child-like energy," Nigam told reporters.
Describing the treatment of people from the Hijra (transgender, transsexual, a cross-dresser, or eunuch) community that he has personally witnessed, he said, "When I was a child, I used to think what if I was born in a planet where people like me were in minority and others were majority... What would happen to me, my family because of it?
"Why can't it happen that we see them at normal places? Why do we see them on the streets, at marriages only," he mentioned at the launch of the video.
In the early days, the Hijra community was recognised as being auspicious. Members were, and in many cases, are still invited to attend weddings to bless the couple. They were also invited to funerals as mourners.
During the British rule, Hijras were considered criminals and were forced to live isolated from the remainder of society. With the fall in status, many have been forced to work as sex workers in order to earn a living.