Rahul Khalade aka Payal, now officially registered as a voter in the “Other” category, proudly flashes the new election card. “During the general elections last year, I had to vote from the male category, but now I am registered as a transgender and can vote from the third gender ‘Other’ category,” says Khalade, elated with the new voting card that symbolises the transgender status.
The district election office, which has started enrolling transgenders as voters, has organised a special drive for them and female sex workers on Saturday.
An initial drive was held at Yerawada on October 19 where 38 transgenders were enrolled as voters and listed to receive the election card.
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The special drive organised on Saturday is to encourage female sex workers and transgenders at Budhwar Peth to come out and apply for election cards. The drive has been organised by the district election office in association with NGOs and District AIDS Control Society.
Voter registration for transgenders has been an uphill task, mainly because they have no permanent residences. Some live in rented homes and landlords are reluctant to get into any official agreement, which means they cannot submit proof of residence. Now, after several rounds of deliberations with the district collector and the election office, it has been decided to allow transgenders to fill a separate form that provides details about their “guru’s” residence.
Transgenders have a firm social structure, organised around the hierarchy of the “guru” or mother over her “chela” or daughter. “This is a form of security for the young hijra who has been ostracised by their families,” says Bindhumadhav Khire, president of Sampathik Trust that reaches out to the population of homosexuals and transgenders.
“What is unique this time is that the issue of absence of proof of residence has been addressed by the district collector and the election office. A transgender can now give details of the guru’s residence,” says Parikshit Shete, project manager at Samapathik Trust.
Kalyani Patil, programme manager at District AIDS Control Society, says the city has about 400 transgenders, 7,000 female sex workers and 4,000 men having sex with men (MSM). “After several brainstorming sessions, the collector’s office has allowed the submission of various documents that provide proof of their residence. Along with other NGOs, we have appealed to members from these communities to come and apply for the voter cards,” Patil says.
Samiksha Chandrakar, Deputy District Election Officer, told The Indian Express that since these communities faced several challenges in obtaining documents as proof of their residences, the new provision had been made for them. “NGOs can also provide certificates for female sex workers as part of the documentation,” Chandrakar said.