They are taking efforts to make their voice heard

With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the transgender community in Madurai district is stepping up efforts to find a representation at the hustings.

As per the draft voters’ list reviewed in January, a total of 66 transgenders in the district have enrolled so far.

“Earlier, we never came out as transgenders because of the stigma attached to us. Now, with the support of the government, many are willing to come forward,” said Nirosha.

The community was first recognised by the Election Commission (EC) under the ‘Other’ category in 2010. Even though there are over 2,000 transgenders in the district, only a few have enrolled under the ‘other’ category.

“Many have enlisted themselves as either men or women, since many felt the term ‘other’ was demeaning,” said Srinidhi, a 23-year-old transgender who obtained her voter ID card under the women’s category. “We are humans, not animals. Our request to the Election Commission is to recognise us only as transgenders,” she added.

About the choice of political party, most transgenders said they were determined to extend their support to a party that recognises them as part of society and also accepts their demands such as reservation in employment and education, pension for old transgenders, issue of ration and voter identity cards.

“Article 21 of the Constitution ensures Fundamental Right to Life, which includes right to live with dignity, and transgenders are entitled to the basic necessities in life such as food, shelter, medical facilities and right to education,” said Swapna who happens to be the first transgender to appear for TNPSC examinations last year.

It may be recalled that Swapna and three other transgenders had pleaded with the Madras High Court to direct the government to provide three per cent reservation for transgenders in education and employment.

While most transpersons are excited about exercising their franchise for the first time, Barathi Kannamma, a Maduraiite, has announced that she will contest the upcoming LS elections from the Madurai constituency as an independent candidate.

Ms.Kannamma told The Hindu on Sunday that while most political parties refused to even acknowledge her community, she resolved to float a party of her own (Aam Saathi Makkal Iyakkam) and fight for the rights of transgenders.

“Most people in my community are forced into sex trade as they are unable to find employment or get family support. I have the support of the youth of Madurai. If my party emerges as victorious like the Aam Aadmi Party, then I will represent my people in Parliament and fight for their rights,” she added.

The move is likely to inspire thousands of transgenders in the State for whom political empowerment remains a distant dream.

Will be the first

If she files her nomination papers, Ms.Kannamma would be the first transgender to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Madurai.

Her nomination for the candidature of the Mayor’s post was rejected owing to confusion over her gender identity during 2011 local body elections.

It may be noted that in March 2013, Parveen Bhanu, a transgender, was elected as councillor to the Bellary City Corporation in Karnataka. She had represented the Congress party in the election.

Jecintha Martin, secretary, District Legal Services Authority, said, “It is good to see transgenders in Madurai coming forward to enrol themselves in the voter’s list, yet they have a long way to go. Though 50 per cent of them have been accepted by society, the rest are being looked at with disdain because of some perception that they indulge in immoral acts. To bring about a change in their attitude and uplift them, transgenders must contest in elections. It is the best way to achieve their rights,” she opines.

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