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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Third-gender voters in West Bengal reluctant to stand in polling queue over discrimination

An EC official said efforts have been taken to encourage transgender community members to vote through creative campaigns that target the minorities and underprivileged groups

PTI Calcutta Published 18.04.24, 03:32 PM
Representational image.

Representational image. File

Several enrolled third-gender voters in West Bengal have expressed reluctance to queue up at polling booths, claiming that they are viewed with disdain and repeatedly asked by security personnel to prove their identity.

Despite having valid documents including residential proof, many transgenders don’t have their names updated in the voter list, said Ranjita Sinha, a former member of the state’s transgender board and a prominent activist.

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"If they line up before booths even in urban areas, they are viewed with contempt. Transgenders feel uncomfortable with the behaviour of security personnel, who repeatedly ask them to furnish identity proof. All these things are disconcerting," she said.

Sinha also claimed that the recorded figure of transgender community members by the Election Commission in the state is significantly lower than the actual number. While the estimated number is between 40,000 and 50,000, the poll panel's count of transgenders is 1,837.

She advocated greater empathy and sensitivity towards the community at polling booths, similar to the provisions for men, women, senior citizens and the differently abled people.

"I think sensitisation about third-gender people is greatly lacking among the law-enforcing authorities, officials and members of political parties," she said.

Sinha criticised the dearth of representation of transgenders in political parties, and underscored the need for increased awareness and inclusion of their rights in political agendas.

"How many transgenders have been fielded by parties in recent elections? Not a single one in West Bengal by any of the main parties. Had they been serious about giving due importance to transgenders, they would have included them in higher numbers,” she said.

She also stressed on the importance of distinguishing between transgenders and the broader LGBTQ+ community to address misconceptions.

Chhabi Hijra, a trans woman from Patuli area and leader of a group of around 100 transgenders, expressed disappointment over their exclusion from the voter list despite having valid documents.

Chhabi said many members of the community might refrain from voting, while some could attempt to exercise their franchise with the assistance of local leaders of political parties.

An EC official said efforts have been taken to encourage transgender community members to vote through creative campaigns that target the minorities and underprivileged groups.

He emphasised on the constitutional and judicial guarantee of fundamental rights for transgenders, asserting that EC officials must ensure that they are able to vote freely.

The ruling Trinamool Congress and Congress, in their manifestos, have expressed their commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the LGBT and queer groups, and finding practical solutions to promote their rights and inclusion in society.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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