All adult eunuchs in Delhi, India, will be given pensions of 1000 rupees (£14) per month in recognition of their low status, the local government has announced.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) already pays a pension to people such as senior citizens, widows and the mentally or physically disabled.

To be eligible for the pension, eunuchs must show that they do not have male genitalia and that they are unmarried and over the age of 18.

India is thought to have around 1.5 million eunuchs or hijiras, as they are also known. Although they were traditionally surrounded by superstition and myth from their role of guarding the emperor’s wives, modern society has been less tolerant of them.

Many are shunned by their families and struggle to obtain conventional jobs, instead turning to begging and prostitution to earn a living. Some earn money by dancing at weddings and performing blessings.

Local councillor Jagdish Mamgain told the Hindustan Times: “Eunuchs belong to the deprived section of society. They hardly have any employment opportunity, and when they get older, there is no way to make ends meet.

“Since the government does not have any machinery to provide employment and assistance to them, MCD is now going to do their bit by providing pension to eunuchs residing in Delhi.”

The community has won new rights in the last few years. They may now select ‘E’ for eunuch on passports and some government forms and last November, the Electoral Commission of India allowed them to choose ‘O’ for other on voting forms.