June July 2016
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The Advocate

Nupi Maanbi: The Transgender of Manipur

The maibis, a community of women mediums in India’s northeast Manipur state, lead a mystical existence, acting as religious counselors and oracles to the human world from that of the Meitei gods. Devan, the subject of this photo series by Siddharth Haobijam, is one of about 1,000 maibis, and she’s also a part of Manipur’s transgender population known as the Nupi Maanbi.

In April 2014 in a landmark decision, India’s supreme court ruled that people who are neither male nor female, by personal identification or societal consensus, must be legally recognized as belonging to a third gender. The court also directed local and state governments to grant legal recognition of people’s chosen gender identity, whether it is male, female or third gender.

These photographs were taken for the Maruploi Foundation in conjunction with PhotoPhilanthropy, an orgnaization that specializes in using photographic images to help nonprofits advocate for their causes. PhotoPhilanthropy.org

Photos by Siddharth Haobijam

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Devan getting ready for her oracle work.

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Devan's wife helps her dress.

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Devan on her way to the place of worship where the local deity resides.

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Devan's home.

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Devan at the shrine, the only source of livelihood for her and her family.

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Devan in a trance.