Transgenders get 'third gender' status for WB polls

Transgenders get 'third gender' status for WB polls

Transgenders get 'third gender' status for WB polls
Two years after the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict, transgenders in West Bengal will be able to exercise their franchise this April-May Assembly elections under the “third gender” category.

Long consigned the underbelly and dregs of society, Bengal’s transgenders are already being enlisted under the new category and not forced to identify themselves as either of the two conventional genders, male or female. The process of being registered as voters is already underway in Bengal, which will see polls in six phases from April 4.

With more than 30,000 transgender voters across the state, they will add a new dimension to the elections. A transgender, Ranjita Sinha, member of the National Transgender Development Board, said that while the Election Commission (EC) had ruled in 2009 that transgenders’ would be able to cast votes as the “other gender”, the 2016 Assembly elections will be the first time they will exercise their franchise as “third gender”. “Though some of us voted as the ‘other gender’ in 2011, we longed for official recognition after the Supreme Court ruling. We’re happy the commission recognised us this time,” she said.

Ranjita, however, pointed out that till early this week, only around 5,000 transgenders have been registered on the voters’ list. “Though Bengal has more than 30,000 transgenders, only a small fraction have been included in voters’ list. We feel this is step-motherly attitude of the state government towards our community,” she said. While she admitted that the government has proactively included transgenders in the rolls in Kolkata, the situation is different in villages.

“In rural Bengal, officials responsible for the job have not shown the same urgency to pursue the matter as those in Kolkata and other urban centres. Moreover, if political parties are serious about our welfare, they should consider members from our community as candidates to fight polls,” said Ranjita.

State Women and Child Development Minister Sashi Panja, who is also chairman of the state transgender development board, said the EC and the transgender community leaders should conduct awareness camps to encourage more from the “third gender” to register as voters.

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