: Political leaders and party workers all over the State are busy canvassing voters ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Campaigners have already met thousands of people in person and through the internet. Yet, there is one community whose votes no one seems to want – transgenders, homosexuals, and other sexual minorities.
“No political party or leader has approached me or any member of our community asking for our votes,” said Navas, the Ernakulam project manager of Pehchan that works for HIV AIDS prevention among MSM (men who have sex with men), transgender, and hijra communities.
As project manager, Navas meets thousands of persons belonging to sexual minorities. He also takes awareness classes for police officers, residents' associations, and other groups. In his own words, Navas is an empowered member of the group. “We are all adults with voting rights and we could take a stand to vote for any one political party. But no leader seems interested in our issues,” said Navas.
Sexual minorities in Kerala are fighting to stay visible even among members of the Health Department and its agencies who interact with them regularly as part of AIDS prevention programmes. An official of the Kerala State Aids Control Society said that until recently, their statistics showed that there were zero transgenders in Kerala. To combat this anomaly, members of the transgender community here recently organised a rally in Kollam to display their strength. Following the rally, the National Aids Control Society is taking steps to revise its figures.
Navas said that his own project had reached out to about 1,500 members of the MSM, transgender, and hijra community in Ernakulam district alone, not to mention other sexual minorities. The group includes doctors, lawyers, bankers, government officials, labourers, and people from various walks of life. While some of them hide their gender identity and have married, others choose to come out in the open about their identity and face social ostracism.
“I was crossing the road at Vyttila recently and a policeman stopped me midway. He said he would beat me up if I didn’t dress properly,” said a person from the transgender community. Sexual minorities also find it difficult to find work or a place to stay. Programmes like Pehchan support them in their struggle for acceptance. But the fight has become much more difficult after the Supreme Court set aside the Delhi High Court order that decriminalized homosexual acts. The community feels that a hand of friendship from political groups would go a long way towards helping people who fight for legal and social acceptance.