In a landmark decision, the government in Bangladesh has approved a proposal of the social welfare ministry to identify “Hijra” as a third possible gender identity.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the decision at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Hijra, often subsumed under the trans umbrella in the West, is a South Asian feminine gender identity. It is sometimes – but not always – adopted by intersex people.

Under the new Government policy, the rights of all hijras will be secured, enabling them to identify their gender in documents such as passports.

Cabinet Secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said: “There are at least 10,000 hijras in Bangladesh.

“They are being denied their rights in various sectors including education, health and housing because of being a marginal group.”

He said they will be referred to as hijras in both English and Bangla.

“Any other translations to English would be misleading,” he added.

In an interview with the Daily Star, Bangladesh Hijra Kallyan Foundation President Abida Sultana Mitu said: “I would like to thank the government for this initiative.

“As we are the most neglected section of the society, I think the government will take more steps for protecting our rights.”

Pakistan allowed hijras a third gender category back in 2011.

In September, gay rights groups criticised the government in Bangladesh for refusing to decriminalise same-sex relationships, despite recommendations by the United Nations to do so.