Guwahati, India: Assam has become the first Indian state to add "transgender" as an identity category for people seeking civil service jobs, allowing 42 trans candidates to apply to sit an entry exam, an official and a campaigner said on Friday.
The application form for the exam, which recruits for state roles such as administrative officials, magistrates and police officers, now lets applicants tick male, female or transgender - a move welcomed by local trans rights advocates.
"Forty-two (applicants) is not a small number... It is a historic decision. Assam has become the first state in India to have included us," said Swati Bidhan Baruah of the Assam Transgender Welfare Board, which sought the change.
Calling the decision a "big victory", she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation her group had also urged Assam's state government to reserve a quota of civil service jobs for trans candidates.
"We are confident our demand will be met soon," she said.
Pallab Bhattacharya, chairman of the Assam Public Service Commission, which conducts the test, said about 76,000 candidates had applied to sit this year's examination, which will be held in December.
In April, India's federal government instructed all ministries and departments to modify forms for recruitment tests to include "transgender" as a separate category to conform with a trans rights law passed last year.
The law set out to improve the lives of about two million trans Indians, who face discrimination in the largely conservative nation and mostly survive through begging, performing at weddings or selling sex.
Still, campaigners have expressed concern about the limits on self-determining their gender, with the law stating they must obtain an identity certificate from a district magistrate to be declared transgender.
They also have to give proof of having undergone sex reassignment surgery if they then want to be listed as male or female.
India's Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that trans people had equal rights but they are still often rejected by their families and denied jobs, education and healthcare.
Assam, which lies in northeast India, has a trans population of about 11,500, according to the last census of 2011.
One trans woman who filled out the state application form said sitting the entry examination could change her life, adding that she hoped to join the local police force.
"It's a matter of pride and self respect to have a category where we can boldly mention ourselves as transgender," the 24-year-old said, asking not to give her name.
"I want to change the system and do away with discrimination faced by the transgender community."