By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane

OFFICIALLY known to the government as the 'third gender', the hijras are a tight-knit community of transgender individuals in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh

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The Hijras have both male and female characteristics

In the chaotic city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the hijras are often excluded by their families and relatives due to attitudes towards transgender people.

They often wear decorative, thick make up

Danish photographer, Jan Moeller Hansen, visited Dhaka city from 2010 to 2012 to meet and learn about the hijras and their lives in the Bangladeshi society.

Hijras are often in tight-knit communities
Hijras challenge Western ideas of sex and gender

He said: “After some years living in Dhaka, I realised that the hijras were some of the most open, proud, self-conscious and dignified people that I have met during my five years in Bangladesh.

"Due to their different sexuality, appearance and behaviour and how they were treated by society, they had developed their own family structures and bonds.

The hijras have developed their own family structures and bonds

"I found that the bonds and relations in the hijra families are very strong and necessary in order for them to keep their identity and to survive in society.”

Often practising sex workers, most hijras are born male, but see themselves as neither man or woman.

Jan said: “Becoming a real hijra often means going through the emasculation ritual by removal of the penis and testicles.

They suffer from political and social oppression and stigma

"The emasculation ritual transforms an impotent man into a potentially powerful person.”

Their segregation from society has caused the Hijras to form in to small, extremely bonded groups.

Hijras have been part of the South Asian communities for thousands of years
Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have legally recognised the third gender

In recent years, the hijras now fighting for their rights as equals and individuals.

Jan said: "The hijras are fighting for their rights, and they want to be treated equally among other people. They want others to know that they are also normal human beings.

"They want to be allowed to lead a normal life like others. The hijras claim that others do not understand their life, gender and sexuality. They want the society and the government to recognise them with equally rights as other human beings.”