2024 Lok Sabha Elections : 32 Thousand Transgender Persons Disenfranchised in MP—What About Their Constitutional Rights?

Estimates suggest that there are over 35 thousand transgender individuals in the state. While the government professes a commitment to integrating them into mainstream society, the names of over 32 thousand transgender individuals are absent from the voter list, effectively disenfranchising them.
2024 Lok Sabha Elections : 32 Thousand Transgender Persons Disenfranchised in MP—What About Their Constitutional Rights?

Bhopal- "I was different from all my brothers and sisters. My father used to curse God after my birth. He used to say, what sins did I commit in my previous life that he was born in the house. Being different from everyone, my family never sent me to school. At the age of 11, my family handed me over to a Dera (group of kinnar). In the Dera, when the guru sent me to school, the children started teasing me, out of fear, I stopped going to school. While staying in the Dera, I learnt the ways of the eunuch (Kinnar) community and started asking for Badhai ( money in lieu of blessings). My voter card was never made, nor have I ever cast my vote."

While talking to The Mooknayak, transgender Nisha, a resident of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, shared the problems she is currently facing due to not having an identity card. Nisha, while keeping the name given by her family a secret, said that she wish she forgets the name given by the family that abandoned her at the age of 11. Nisha has no contact with her family, she considers the Dera (camp) as her family.

The transgender community in our country has long suffered from social discrimination. Despite governmental rhetoric regarding their rights, many transgender individuals continue to be denied their constitutional rights and values. This disparity is particularly pronounced in Madhya Pradesh, where the economic and social conditions of transgender individuals remain precarious. Compounding these challenges, thousands find themselves excluded from the electoral process.

Estimates suggest that there are over 35 thousand transgender individuals in the state. While the government professes a commitment to integrating them into mainstream society, the names of over 32 thousand transgender individuals are absent from the voter list, effectively disenfranchising them.

Efforts to improve voter turnout, such as awareness campaigns conducted by the administration and the Election Commission of India, are commendable. However, these initiatives fall short of addressing the root issue of voter exclusion. Despite designating transgender activist Sanjana Singh as a state icon, the failure to include thousands of transgender individuals in the voter list undermines the credibility of such gestures.

According to the October 2023 voter list released by the Madhya Pradesh State Election Commission, there are only 1373 registered as "other" gender voters. This figure is starkly disproportionate to the estimated transgender population, indicating a significant gap in representation. Moreover, many transgender individuals lack even basic identification such as Aadhar cards, rendering them ineligible for government schemes and benefits.

The issue hindering transgender individuals from obtaining their Aadhar Card and Voter Card lies in the discrepancy between their current name and the name recorded in official documents such as birth certificates and mark sheets. Typically, transgender individuals are named by their families at birth, and this name is reflected in their legal documents. However, upon joining the transgender community, individuals often adopt a new name, distancing themselves from their family name and identity. This name change is embraced within the community, but it poses challenges when attempting to update official documents.

Transgender individuals seeking to obtain Aadhar Cards with their current names encounter technical obstacles, as their preferred name does not match the name on their official paperwork. Moreover, some transgender individuals may have Aadhar Cards issued under their birth names but hesitate to disclose their identity due to the lack of updated documentation reflecting their preferred name and gender.

This situation infringes upon the constitutional rights of transgender individuals, including their dignity, privacy, equality, and access to justice. Requiring transgender individuals to be known by their old names violates their privacy, while the inability to obtain essential documents like Aadhar Cards undermines their equality and access to justice.

Every citizen of our country has the right to vote, yet a significant portion of the transgender population remains excluded from the voter list.

Guru Kajal Thakur, from a dera in Bhopal, highlighted that many dera members lack both voter cards and Aadhar cards, thereby being denied access to government schemes and services.

Transgender individual Kainat, speaking to The Mooknayak, shared her struggles in obtaining an Aadhar Card. Despite multiple visits to the Aadhar center, she faced difficulties due to discrepancies in her documents. Kainat's experience is not unique; many transgender individuals in Bhopal encounter similar challenges, either in obtaining Aadhar Cards or in updating their gender and name information on the cards.

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Challenges in obtaining identity documents, opening bank accounts

The absence of bank accounts among hundreds of transgender individuals due to the lack of Aadhar cards highlights a systemic barrier hindering their financial inclusion. Kainat shared her own experience, pointing out the disparity between governmental promises and the practical challenges faced by the transgender community. Despite assurances of upliftment, crucial documents such as gender certificates and Aadhar cards remain elusive.

Procuring a gender certificate, vital for asserting self-identity, presents further hurdles. While the Social Justice Department facilitates their issuance at all district headquarters, applicants must furnish Aadhar, Samagra ID, or Voter Cards, perpetuating a cycle of bureaucratic obstacles. Joint Director of the Social Justice Department, RK Singh, revealed that only 70 gender certificates were issued in Bhopal over six months, with no progress in the subsequent four months.

Transgender activist Sanjana Singh lamented the government's apathy, citing the failure to implement schemes addressing social discrimination or facilitate Aadhar card issuance. Despite the absence of concrete data, it's evident that thousands of transgender individuals struggle to obtain essential identification documents.

The Madhya Pradesh government's proposed transgender board, sanctioned in 2021, remains unrealized after three years. Sanjana Singh condemned the government's indifference, emphasizing the importance of such a board in fostering transgender inclusion and empowerment. Despite policy recommendations and cabinet approval, the board's formation has languished, exacerbating the challenges faced by the transgender community.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Good Governance Institute formulated a policy advocating for the transgender board's establishment, which was duly endorsed by the cabinet. However, bureaucratic inertia has stymied progress, reflecting a broader pattern of governmental inaction in addressing the systemic marginalization of transgender individuals.

Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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