LokSabha 2019: Only 11 pc transgenders from State cast votes

Pranita Roy
Sunday, 5 May 2019

Such a low turnout has taken aback activists from the community, including Gauri Sawant, who was appointed as a goodwill ambassador for this election and those like Disha Pinky Shaikh, Chandani Gore and others, who had joined different political parties. 

PUNE: This was the first Lok Sabha election in which transgenders were enabled to vote with their gender identity as ‘third gender’. Surprisingly, Pune observed only 10.88 per cent voter turnout from the community and state-wide average was only about 25 per cent. 

In Maharashtra, polling got over on April 29. On one hand, many transgenders came out proudly on voting days, showing their voter IDs which mention their gender as ‘third gender’, there were many who stayed away from voting.

Such a low turnout has taken aback activists from the community, including Gauri Sawant, who was appointed as a goodwill ambassador for this election and those like Disha Pinky Shaikh, Chandani Gore and others, who had joined different political parties. 

While the activists stated that this time a rigorous voting awareness campaign was held among the community members across several places in different districts, one of the major reasons could be lack of awareness especially among ‘Gurus’ whom the community members follow blindly.

LACK OF AWARENESS IN COMMUNITY, INTEREST
“Poor turnout of voters from the community highlights the lack of awareness among them. However, the election officers have to understand that sensitisation about voting is necessary for the ‘Gurus’ who their ‘Chelas’ follow faithfully and blindly,” said Disha Pinky Shaikh, spokesperson of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).

She also stated that another reason for less voting can be inferiority complex. “There were no separate lines for transgenders. So there is a possibility that many had to wait in usual male and female line, where they might have faced humiliation because people stare at them unusually. Although some transgenders have grown out of this complexity, it still affects many. Also, transgenders are daily wagers, so many would haven’t wanted to spare work for voting,” said Shaikh.

NO UPLIFTMENT GUARANTEE
Since most of the government benefits do not reach them, while in many cases there are no special provisions for them, experts feel this adds to transgenders’ apathy. “Maharashtra was among the first in the country to appeal for recognition of the third gender at Supreme Court. But it is also the only State with no transgender welfare board. Hardly any government scheme is dedicated towards the community, nor do they stand to benefit from general schemes like housing facilities etc. Then on what basis will they vote, when they lack confidence on any party which can convince them about their upliftment?” asked Gauri Sawant. 

“They have feeling that when common people don’t receive their benefits from the government, then transgenders are most underprivileged section of the society where it can be least expected,” said Shaikh.

VOTING WILL EMPOWER
Nevertheless, activists have stated that more awareness about voting is definitely required among the community members. Recalling an incident, Vice-President of National Congress Party’s women cell in Pune Chandani Gore said, “I had once visited a government official to ask about schemes for financial aid. He remarked I look so healthy that I don’t need such schemes. This is just one example of what transgenders generally face when approaching government servants for benefits. But the community has to realise that only by voting will we be able to bring better schemes like housing, education, employment facilities for us. We can increase our visibility by voting.”

The activists also stated that a strict provision should be formed like if the voter ID holders don’t vote for two or three terms then their voter ID will get cancelled. They stated that it should be implemented for all so that no one misses voting and exercise their right even if it is ‘None of the above’ (NOTA).

SHRIRAMPUR ACES
Shrirampur in Ahmednagar district saw 42 out of 55 registered transgender voters exercise their voting rights. “The reason is that the ‘Guru’ there has good influence as she is well-educated and aware about voting,” said Disha Pinky Shaikh.

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