Transgenders feel rejected as voters list reduces them to 513

Last Updated 18 April 2014, 05:04 IST

Transgender voters, estimated to be around 5 lakh in West Bengal, feel left out of the electoral process with only 513 of them registered in the voters list as the third sex.

It is for the first time in India that transgenders and eunuchs are voting as the third gender after Election Commission recognised them as "others" besides male and female voters.

"I am lucky that I could get myself enlisted in the third sex category but all of us could not do so because even the officers engaged in preparing the electoral list don't know that there is a third gender," Ranjita Sinha who leads Association of Transgender/Hijra in Bengal (ATHB) told PTI.

Transgenders say the key to progress of their community is getting recognition as an alternative gender based on which they can fight for other rights in spheres like health, education and employment.

Most members of the transgender and hijra community were forced to register themselves as male or female voters when faced with problems in getting recognition as the third sex.

Although no records are available, it is roughly estimated that the transgender population in West Bengal is around 5-6 lakh.

There are 6.2 crore voters in the state but the voters list shows only 513 people registered in the "Others" category.

In Murshidabad constituency, for example, there are only 3 voters in the "Others" category. 

"Many of them do not have documents to support their identity so they do not get enlisted in the voters' list under any category. In many cases those government officials engaged in enlisting voters do not even visit areas where the enunuchs live," claims gender rights activist Abhina Aher, manager for Alliance India's 'Pehchan' programme.

She suggests that the Election Commission should have done special camps for the third sex voters.

Shabina Akhtar, a transgender living in the slums of Kolkata, says she is worried of taunts and harrasment from other voters while standing in voting queues.

"People pass dirty comments and laugh at us. It is difficult to stand in a queue alone to go for vote. We will get our rights only when the people stop discriminating against us," she says.

The community complains that they have lot of issues but none of the political leaders give them any weightage while campaigning.

The Supreme Court this week ruled that the transgender community must be recognised as the third sex in all government documents and even get reservation under OBC.

According to an estimate, India has about 30 lakh transgenders but the national voter list has only 28,314 third sex voters.

"Once we get recognised by the society and the government as a gender then we will be able to get all rights enjoyed by others. No one gives a job to us so many of us are forced to beg or surrender ourselves to sex trade for a living," gender rights activist Ranjita Sinha says.

(Published 18 April 2014, 05:04 IST)

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