Social stigma continues to keep away transgender voters

Just 556 of 4,839 registered transgenders cast their vote

Published - April 24, 2019 10:41 pm IST - Bengaluru

For most transgenders, getting the ability to vote is a difficult climb over the mountain of bureaucracy that awaits them. Voting, it seems, is another fight against societal stigma.

Just 11.49% or 556 persons of the registered 4,839 transgenders (categorised as Others in the voting list) turned up to vote on April 18 and 23, shows the Election Commission data. This is a marginal improvement since the 2018 State elections when just 9.8% of transgenders voted.

Nelamangala Assembly constituency (part of Chickballapur Lok Sabha seat) tops the list with 47 out of registered 70 transgenders casting their vote, while Chickballapur recorded the highest turnout with 27.85% of transgenders voting.

However, on the other side of the spectrum is Haveri parliamentary constituency, where none of the 81 registered transgenders voted. Similarly, in 104 Assembly constituencies across the State — most in North Karnataka — not one transgender vote was recorded despite 1,066 persons being eligible.

It becomes clear that the best turnouts were in constituencies in and around Bengaluru (Bengaluru North, Central, South, Rural, and Chickballapur). Over 55% of all transgender votes in the State were cast here.

Societal discrimination

Akkai Padamshali, transgender activist, attributes it entirely to continued social stigma. “There is fear, particularly of being judged and mocked. The community is stigmatised when one stands in a polling queue with others. The EC and State government have to be more proactive if they want voter turnouts to increase. There has to be an mechanism that instils confidence in the community to vote,” she said.

In Bengaluru, the relatively higher voter turnout was owing to stronger activism and lowering societal barriers for the transgender community, says Priya, a community advocate with the organisation Ondede. “Discrimination has reduced considerably but not entirely in Bengaluru city. It is easier to go out and vote without being mocked than in places like Haveri or North Karnataka where transgenders are forced to live in the shadows of society... For many, being mocked in public places can send one into depression and it is an experience they actively avoid,” she says.

transgender communities tend to huddle together in areas outside major cities, where rents are lower or people are more willing to rent houses to the community, she says. “And so, in Nelamangala, they live together and they have the confidence to vote in groups. That’s why you see a higher turnout here,” said Ms. Priya.

Chief Electoral Officer (Karnataka) Sanjiv Kumar says while the turnout was “not impressive”, that could be because of personal preferences while voting. “In some cases, while they may be registered as transgenders, they may have submitted documents as male/female to the local officer while voting,” he said.

( Inputs from Afshan Yasmeen )

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