Where are the transgender voters in Delhi? (Election Special)
The transgenders are facing an identity crisis ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi.
Ironically, much of it has to do with the Election Commission's attempt to give them a sense of identity. But members of the community IANS spoke to said the poll panel's decision to have them registered as the third gender "hasn't been thought of well" -- and there are limitations in executing it too.
Many felt that the decision will not benefit their scattered population in the national capital for reasons more than one.
It is then hardly surprising that with an estimated population of 90,000 in Delhi, only 636 have voter cards identifying them as transgenders.
Among these, 154 voter cards were made in the North West Lok Sabha constituency, 115 in East, 92 each in North East and South, 88 in West, 51 in Chandni Chowk and 44 in New Delhi constituency, officials said.
Rudrani Chettri, 36, a transgender and an activist, says the basic problem in enrolling under the third gender category is that "they (the government) don't see the reality".
She complained to IANS that a government official's understanding of a transgender was typically limited to how a person chooses to dress. But in many cases, she argued, it might not be so straightforward.
"Many transgenders lead a dual life. Would a son tell his father that he wants to get registered as a transgender?"
She says many want to register without having to go public about it.
"There is an obvious stigma attached to it," says Chettri, which is her preferred name. Her voter identification card enlists her under the male gender category.
Shaila Jaan is also a transgender who couldn't have her voter identification card made as all her supporting documents were under a male name.
"We don't exist as far as the law is concerned," she says, citing there was no formal study on their numbers or about the health and social security issues they face.
She says she was at a loss when asked to submit documents from doctors and municipal authorities "proving" her as a transgender, at times relying on a physical examination.
Geetanjali Babar, who runs an NGO for transgenders, says having a voter identity card is problematic as many members of the community do not have proof of residence.
"They (Election Commission) really wanted to help this time. All they wanted was for someone to come forward and give assurance on behalf of the transgenders," she says.
Still, others like Kiran, a transgender who came to Delhi from the Adaman and Nicobar islands eight years ago, could not get their voter cards.
She and a group of transgenders approached the Election Commision. They were asked to report at a centre located in a slum area. On reaching the spot, they realized they were supposed to get their photographs as well.
"...people started teasing us and it was not possible to return to the centre," she says.
They approached the poll panel again but are yet to hear from them. "They should think about our problems also," Kiran says.
(Priyanka can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 25-03-2014)