In a landmark decision, an Indian court announced Tuesday that the country will officially recognize its transgender citizens as members of a third gender, which lies outside of the confines of the previously accepted binary male/female gender definitions.

Beating many of its western counterparts to the punch, Indian judge K.S. Radhakrishnan said of the landmark ruling, “Transgenders are citizens of this country … and recognition as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue.”

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The court’s decision now allows the full protection of the law to this often-marginalized group, making it illegal for both the government and private citizens, including employers, to discriminate against India’s transgender individuals.

But while the ruling is certainly cause for celebration for those in favor of equality regardless of gender, there is still work to be done to minimize the rampant discrimination against minority groups in the Asian nation. In January 2013, an Indian court reinstated the threat of punitive measures against its gay, lesbian, and bisexual citizens, making it effectively illegal to engage in same-sex relationships.

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Additionally, overturning the 2009 decision of a lower court, which decriminalized same-sex romances, the court restored the potential punishment of ten years in jail for anyone known to be engaging in homosexual relations.

In other words, although the ruling in favor of trans rights is clearly breaking down some barriers in the highly traditional country, where religious doctrines still rule many facets of every day life, it’s clear that India still has a long way to go before all of its citizens are free to live their lives as they see fit.

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