Despite recognition low turnout of transgenders in voter cards

Low Turnout of Transgenders in Punjab

Even though transgenders have been given official recognition as the third gender, there is an extremely low turnout, as only 14 transgenders are registered in the voter’s list from the SAS Nagar district for the VidhanSabha elections slated for February 4. Though there is no official record of the total number of transgenders in the district, the community pegs it between 1,500 and 2,000.

“In most cases, the voter id card is issued under either male or female categories, despite there being a third gender category. Most of the time, transgenders do not change their status on voter id cards due to family pressure. There is no census to determine the exact number of transgenders. In Punjab, there are more than 20,000 transgenders. Things have changed but the society still has a long way to go to accept us,” said DhananjayChauhan, president of SakshamTrust which is an NGO working for the LGBT community.

In 2009, the Election Commission of India (ECI) allowed transgenders to vote under the ‘other’ category, which was followed by a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that granted them recognition as the third gender. Earlier, transgenders would enlist either as male or female in official documents. However, the option for ‘other’ is now available on voter-id forms.

The district has three assembly constituencies – SAS Nagar, Kharar and DeraBassi – of which the maximum number of transgenders are enrolled from SAS Nagar. According to data, six are enrolled from SAS Nagar, three from Kharar and five from DeraBassi. In Punjab, 273 transgenders are enrolled in the voter’s list.

“No political party is taking up issues faced by transgenders or working towards providing them dignity of life. I will be voting for the first time under the third gender category. So while voting, I will consider a candidate who speaks about the rights of my community. We are part of your society, so accept us as we are,” said Kritika, a make-up artist from Zirakpur.
District election officer-cum-deputy commissioner DS Mangat said, “Teams have held meetings and are creating awareness among transgenders to enrol them in the voter’s list.” He added, “Social stigma could be a major reason for the low enrolment under the third gender category.”
Social stigma remains major reason for low enrolment.