NEW DELHI- India's apex court today granted the shunned transgender community legal recognition as the 'third gender', entitling them to the same rights as any other citizen, seeking to end centuries of discrimination and paving the way for their return from the fringe of the society.

Hundreds of thousands of transgenders in conservative India are ostracized, often abused and forced into prostitution because of lack of legal recognition. But the new ruling would seek to transform their lives, ending the injustice and abuse. "India is the first country in the world where the third gender has been recognised. They have been recognised as Third Gender (TG) after male and female. Transgender is a broad category in which eunuchs have been recognised as the third gender," lawyer Bhatnagar said.