Sonia Sharma, a member of the transgender community living in the Capital, wants to vote in the forthcoming Delhi Assembly elections, but she does not know which party to vote for. The main reason, she points out, is that no political party has ever approached her community for votes.
Political empowerment remains a distant dream for her community which the political class has never considered important, argues Ms. Sharma.
To substantiate her argument, she highlights that her community figures no where in the election agenda of the mainstream political parties.
Congress, the ruling party in Delhi since last 15 years, does not consider the community which is considered marginalised in all spheres of the society, worth mentioning in its manifesto, she said . Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and minorities are the only categories mentioned by the party manifesto in the column of marginalised groups.
“Ensure that the transgender community gets access to education and health care and protected from harassment by the police,” is the one line dedicated to the community in the manifesto of the Aam Aadmi Party which is making its electoral debut this time.
Even though the Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to release its manifesto, Ms. Sharma does not expect any thing from the party. India granted transgenders voting rights in 1994.
The community was first recognised by the Election Commission (EC) under the 'Other' category in 2010.
But this time around, Ms. Sharma is determined to cast her vote and support the political party which helps her fellow community members get an election ID card.
“Most of the transgenders do not have any basic document they can use to get themselves enrolled in the electoral list because a large number of the community have been disowned by their family members and have no documents to prove their identity,” says Ms. Sharma who unsuccessfully tried in the past to get her fellow community members enrolled. After a huge registration drive the EC managed to get only 541 transgenders on its roll, which is an increase of just 332 from last year. Anjan Joshi from SPACE (Society for People’s Awareness Care and Empowerment) argues that there is a strong desire in the transgender community to be recognised and be politically empowered but for the “extreme apathy” from the political class as well as from the entire system.
The reason why no political party considers the transgender community a vote bank is connected to the way it is perceived by society at large, says Mr. Joshi, adding that transgenders are not seen as a section which has some thing to contribute to the society.