It is an odd situation for members of the transgender community.
There is no bar on them to contest in local body polls due next month. Names of persons belonging to the community are included in electoral rolls under the column “others” or “third gender.” But, the members will have to identify themselves in nomination papers as “male” or “female.” The reason is that there is no provision in the papers for the community and the prefix “Thiru/Thirumathi/Selvi” is mentioned for prospective candidates.
“Who are they to tell us that we should belong to either of the two genders, when we are not,” asks Grace Banu, chairperson of the Centre for Trans, a five-year-old body working in the area of rights of the community. “It is unacceptable and we are planning to oppose this stipulation,” the NGO leader says.
As per the rolls published by the Election Commission of India (ECI) as on September 1, 2016, there are 4,598 electors who have registered themselves under the category “Third Gender.”
The rolls prepared by the ECI are adopted by the State Election Commission (SEC) for the local bodies also.
Though the SEC is conscious of the issue concerning the transgenders, it pleads helplessness.
“The transgenders want us to permit them to contest without being identified either as male or female. For the time being, I am unable to go beyond the present position,” P. Seetharaman, State Election Commissioner, says. He emphasises that it is up to them to call themselves “male” or “female” and there is no compulsion. If some of them put identify themselves as “female,” they can enter the electoral fray in those seats earmarked for women.
The SEC also explains that it follows essentially what has been laid down by the ECI. But, an official of the ECI says that in nomination papers to be submitted by candidates for elections to Lok Sabha or State Assemblies, there is no prefix for names of the contestants.
However, there is a feeling within the transgender community that there must be quota in legislature along with a similar scheme in education and employment, adds Banu.