The inclusion of the ‘others’ option for describing one’s gender in the voters’ list was viewed as a creditable and long-overdue move on part of Election Commission of India (ECI) in 2011. However, Punekars have seemingly vetoed this amendment, as not one transgender person from the city has so far been identified in the list. However, ECI’s initiative has inspired the district election department, which is now going the extra mile by conducting special meetings with members of the community to encourage them into coming forward.
State deputy chief electoral officer Anil Valvi said that the step of introducing ‘others’ for gender identification was so effective that in January, as many as thirty transgender persons from Nallasopara assembly constituency in Mumbai have recorded their names in the voters’ list. “Since this idea has motivated transgender people in Mumbai, I believe it will also induce members of the community in Pune district,” said Valvi. Accordingly, district deputy election officer Apurva Wankhede conducted the first such special meeting on Thursday with transgenders and representatives of other marginalised groups, egging them on to enrol in the voters’ list.
“Even if they don’t have address proof, they can just show theirAadhaar cards and letters from any NGOs they are attached to, apart from their names, and they will instantaneously be registered in the voters’ list,” said Wankhede. Professional mehendi artist Rajesh More was one of those who attended the meeting yesterday.
“I had already registered my name in the voters’ list, identifying myself as a ‘male’. But after a sex reassignment surgery I would always be in a dilemma while filling up any forms. However, as this new option has been introduced, I am going to register myself to the voters’ list with my new identity,” said Rajesh.
Member of the NGO Ashirwad (striving for transgender rights), D Panna Gabrel, said the ECI’s initiative was expected, after the third gender option was introduces in the Indian passport forms. “Slowly we are being assigned a place in society by various government departments and this will surely change things towards wider acceptance,” said Gabrel.
Shabnam Mausi was the first transgender in India to be elected as MLA, from Sohagpur constituency in MP in 1998. She inspired a lot of transgender people in India to take up politics and participate in ‘mainstream activities’ of the country, giving up the ‘traditional’ roles as dancers, prostitutes, and beggars. Mamta Kinnar was another transgender who was elected as Rawatbhata municipality chairperson in Rajasthan in 2009.