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Last Updated : Mar 17, 2019 03:01 PM IST | Source: PTI

'Others' voters increase by 15,306 in 5 years; activists blame paperwork, 'insensitive' officials

According to data provided by the Election Commission, the number of voters enrolled in the "other" category now stands at 38,325, an increase of 15,306 in the last five years.

Representative image
Representative image

The number of transgender voters enrolled in 'others' category in the electoral list has not seen much increase since the 2014 general elections.

According to data provided by the Election Commission, the number of voters enrolled in the "other" category now stands at 38,325, an increase of 15,306 in the last five years.

The poll panel had since 2012 allowed registration of transgender persons as 'others' in the electoral rolls.

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Transgender activists claim the figure is quite low compared to their population, as many of them still refrain from enrolling themselves in the voters list as 'others'.

Though the 2011 census puts the population of transgenders at around 4.9 lakh, activists claim it is much higher than that.

Besides social stigma, they claimed that the tedious process of furnishing documents to validate a transgender person's identity is another reason behind the community's low enrolment in the voters list.

A number of documents are required to be furnished to prove one's identity while enrolling in the list.

It becomes a difficult process for the transgender community members as many of them don't possess the documents and certificates, said Anindya Hajra, a transgender activist at Pratyay Gender Trust.

"Insensitivity of the officials and the herculean paperwork can double or triple the pain of transgender people if not heighten their anxiety, social humiliation and dysphoria. Thus many prefer not to undergo this ordeal," Hajra said.

"Transgenders face similar problem while applying for passports also. Medical certificates of a gender transition is sought despite the 2014 NALSA verdict that states that self-identifying as transgender is not necessarily tied to a case of medical transition," the activist said.

Also, there are many who registered themselves either as male or female many years ago and changing their gender in the voter ID card will require them to go through a lot of steps, Hajra said.

Echoing similar sentiments, Gauri Sawant, who runs Sakhi Char Chowghi, an NGO in Maharashtra, said many transgenders run away from their homes at an early age and do not possess birth certificates or address proofs.

The legal process of getting these documents is expensive as well as tedious as the officials are "insensitive" towards the community, Sawant claimed.

"The requirement of a medical certificate does not recognise the principle of self-identification, fundamental to the principle laid down in NALSA judgment.

"Also, many had undergone gender-change procedures before the 2014 judgment and do not have the medical documents to validate that. Since several of these people are not well-off financially, they go to quacks to undergo procedures and thus do not have any documents," the transgender activist said.

Submitting address proof is a significant hurdle as a majority of transgender people live on rent and the house owners refuse to sign an agreement which makes it difficult for them to even submit an application, she claimed.

Meera Sanghamitra, an activist with the National Alliance of People's Movements and Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti alleged that there has been "no meaningful attempt" to implement the 2014 Supreme Court judgment to give ID cards to transgenders in all states based on self-identification and ensure inclusion of their names in voters list or change of their names or gender as per their choice.

"We clearly see this as a failure of the government, of the previous government as well. But in the case of this government, it is even more clear and stark.

"The verdict had come out just before it (BJP) came to power and the Supreme Court gave clear-cut guidelines. But five years hence,we don't see its implementation either by the government or the Election Commission, except for little exceptions," Sanghamitra said.

Another activist alleged that when transgenders approach the poll panel office for registration, officials often treat them as an outcast and do not respond properly, adding the social stigma attached to the community discourages its members from applying for enrolment in voter list as 'others'.

"The reliance on a number of documents from a person opting as transgender must be waived. Their chosen gender identity must be granted to them without subjecting them to questions to validate their choice," Hajra said.

Abhina Aher, a trans activist working with India HIV/AIDS Alliance as an associate director took a shot at the government accusing it of not doing anything for the community.

In a snide remark, Aher said, "Why should they get enrolled? Why should they at all become the part of decision making process when the government doesn't even consider them as citizens of the country. The government has failed them in terms of providing employment, reservations or other opportunities."

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First Published on Mar 17, 2019 02:50 pm
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