Sromona Bhattacharyya Bhattacharyya
Hailing from Kolkata and now a resident of Bengaluru, Sromona is a multimedia journalist who has a knack for digging stories that truly deserve attention.
During this election season, India has seen an unprecedented number of voters from the transgender community pose as torchbearers of change by contesting for elections form their respective constituencies. India witnessed a lot of ‘firsts’ and for the first time, voters in Kerala could identify themselves as transgender persons in their electoral cards.
Earlier, the norms allowed people to only choose between ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as there was no ‘transgender’ column. Sreekutty, state president of Sexual and Gender Minority Federation told The News Minute, “Earlier, trans men had chosen the gender identity of male and trans women had chosen the column of female. But for the first time, a third column was given as an option, and quite a few trans people have chosen their gender identity as transgender. About 40 trans people should have voted from the state this time.”
She said that while she chose to put ‘female’ as her gender identity, there are many others who would prefer to put either ‘men’ or ‘transgender’. “We had been asking the government to include a third column for the transgender identity ever since a transgender policy was passed by the State in 2015. And the government has helped in sorting out all the legal issues,” Sreekutty added. Reportedly, the Social Justice Department had earlier issued transgender identity cards to members of the community which could be used as a document proof for the new voter’s cards.
However, a New Indian Express report suggested that out of the total 174 transgender voters, only 58 voters had casted their votes on April 23. K Jeevan Babu, Joint CEO told the daily, “The data available with us says about 55 to 60 transgenders cast their votes in the state on Tuesday.” However, State Transgender Justice Board member Anil said that the statistics are not reliable as fearing stigma, transgenders might cast their votes under either ‘male’ or ‘female’ option. Kerala has a total of around 20,000 to 25,000 transgenders.
In Assam, a very small fraction of the registered transgender voters had casted their votes on the same day. Among the 491 ‘third gender’ voters registered in the state, only 24 had casted their vote, reported News18. Meanwhile, Swati Bidhan Baruah, who is Assam’s first transgender judge was forced to cast her vote under the ‘male’ category as she could not get her ‘documents rectified’.
She said, “I wanted to vote under the ‘third gender’ option but could not. I had approached the office of the Chief Election Officer to get my documents rectified to my choice of gender, but I was asked to come after general elections.” She added that there was no separate queue for transgender voters in her polling booth and it was only after she spoke to the polling officer that provision for another booth was created.
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