It has taken them over 60 years and more than a dozen general elections to be recognised for who they are. Lok Sabha elections 2014 would be the first time that 200 voters in Mumbai would be casting their votes as members of the transgender community. Earlier, they would be bracketed mostly with the women voters.
Sahila, Urmi Jadhav and Saumya Gupta
Mumbai has a population of 10,000 transgender individuals, but very few have registered themselves as voters, because they don’t have the documents that would allow them to register as voters. Urmi Jadhav has voted earlier, but as a man. She refused to vote after that, but this time she is happy that her identity as a transgender shall remain intact. The voter from Kalyan said, “I will finally vote not just as a citizen but as who I am.”
Saumya Gupta, another transgender, claims that the time consumed in registration and also, lack of awareness is to be blamed for low registrations. “Not everyone in the community was aware that they could register themselves as voters under the other gender category,” said Gupta, who is a voter from Malad.
Sahila, who normally dresses in t-shirt and jeans is also happy to be recognised. “I rarely wear sarees. My family, my wife and my two children are also aware of who I am and I hope one day, all those hiding their identity will also come out and live life the way they want to. I feel things will change and this is the beginning,” she said. Sahila has voted as a man in earlier elections and got married when he had just reached his teens. He has now informed his family that he is a transgender.
New Vote bank
The likes of Jadhav and Sahila are catching the attention of political leaders who understand that the 10-lakh strong community spread across India, could be a powerful vote bank. The community that mostly lives in slums is a floating tribe as they keep changing their homes often. Most of them stay on rent in slums and they don’t even have proper lease agreements.