Implementation of govt. schemes and scholarships are some demands; many still find it hard to get a ration card, say activists

With the Lok Sabha elections a month away, transgenders in the city are gearing up to vote. But not before presenting a set of demands to their local MPs.

Implementation of government schemes meant for their community, scholarships for education and reservation in employment are some of the demands, said R. Jeeva, founder of the Transgender Rights Association.

“We will approach the candidates, give him/her a list of our demands and ask them to speak about the problems of our community in Parliament. Only if we are convinced this will happen, will we vote for that person,” she said.

While the State has been lauded for setting up a Transgender Welfare Board in 2008, activists say, many still find it hard to get a ration card, leave alone completing their education or finding a job.

“The first thing we will demand is legal recognition,” said Kalki Subramaniam, founder of Sahodari Foundation that works for transgender rights. “Our organisation plans to approach all party leaders and candidates in the fray and ask them to ensure that our basic rights such as a home, a job are taken care of. There is no law to protect us at present. We also want to lobby for gender and sex education at the higher secondary school level,” she said.

Estimates indicate there are between 30,000 and 40,000 transgenders in Tamil Nadu. However, less than 10,000 have voter identity cards, said Ms. Jeeva. Though there is the ‘other’ option in these cards to denote their sex and several transgenders have cards marked ‘TG’, awareness about this has still not completely percolated down, she said.

Ms. Kalki for instance, has ‘female’ on her voter ID card, despite specifically applying in the ‘other’ category. One stumbling block is the lack of a formal survey to determine the number of transgenders in the State.

“A survey was begun some years ago but it was never completed. Part of the problem is that not many are open about their lifestyle, while another problem is that members migrate constantly,” said Ms. Kalki.

A.J. Hariharan, founder secretary, Indian Community Welfare Organisation, said the welfare board is barely functional. “ID cards were supposed to be given out to members of the community but only 2,999 are registered. Many schemes were planned but very few are being implemented now,” he said.

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