Kanpur Queer Welfare Foundation leading an awareness campaign
Kanpur Queer Welfare Foundation leading an awareness campaignKanpur Queer Welfare Foundation

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Why Are Members of the Transgender Community Advocating for Separate Queues at Polling Stations?

Many registered third-gender voters in West Bengal are hesitant to stand in line at polling booths, citing experiences of being treated with disdain and frequently asked to prove their identity by security personnel.

New Delhi- As the nation's celebration of democracy unfolds, multiple communities brace themselves to exercise their right to vote, each with its own set of challenges and triumphs. Yet, amidst the fervour, the transgender community, often marginalized and fighting relentlessly for representation, faces unique hurdles just to reach the polling station.

The national census data of 2011 indicates that there are 487,803 recorded transgender individuals in India. Nonetheless, activists argue that this figure significantly misrepresents the actual number.

According to Ranjita Sinha, a former member of the State's Transgender Board and a leading activist, many registered third-gender voters in West Bengal are hesitant to stand in line at polling booths, citing experiences of being treated with disdain and frequently asked to prove their identity by security personnel.

The activist highlighted that despite possessing valid documents, including proof of residence, many transgender individuals find themselves excluded from the voter list.

She emphasized that even in urban areas, transgender individuals face scrutiny and discomfort from security personnel, who demand repeated proof of identity, creating a disconcerting atmosphere for them.

Similar situation has been observed in Maharashtra where the community has requested election authorities to establish separate voting arrangements at polling centers. A delegation representing the 'Maitri Trutiyapanti Sanghatan' addressed this concern in a letter to Kolhapur district collector Amol Yedge.

In Kolhapur district alone, there are 172 transgender voters. They have highlighted the issue of transgender individuals encountering objectionable comments from other voters while waiting in the voting queue.

Anuj Pandey, the founder and director of Kanpur Queer Welfare Foundation, wrote a letter to the Election Commission of India. Through it, he “urged” the ECI to “consider implementing separate queues specifically designated for transgender voters at polling stations across India.”

He further explained that “just as separate queues are allocated for male, female, and disabled voters, a similar provision should be made for transgender individuals to ensure their inclusion and to facilitate their participation in the democratic process.”

He believes that implementing this initiative would not just signify a dedication to inclusivity, but also uphold the values of equality and representation for every citizen of India.

This is a longstanding issue faced by the community. During the previous Lok Sabha elections, Mani Majra in Chandigarh, there was no third line for the trans people.

According to an article published by Times of India in May of 2019, many members felt violated during the polling.

Dhananjay Mangalmukhi, a student at Punjab University, reflected on his voting experience in Khuda Lahora, his childhood home where he lived as a boy. Upon entering the polling station, he sensed scrutiny from all sides, experiencing a lack of acceptance. Despite this, he remained resolute in his confidence.

Having recently come out as transgender back then, he encountered initial resistance to enter the polling station, which was only resolved after involving the booth-level officer (BLO) and threatening media involvement.

Inside, he found no designated line for transgender voters, prompting objections from some women voters.

Dhananjay firmly asserted his rights as a transgender voter, offering others to vote before him but refusing to align with the queues for men or women, given the government's recognition of the third gender.

Likewise, Kajal Mangalmukhi, from the transgender community in Mani Majra, shared a similar encounter. Together with her mentor, she formed a separate line at the polling station, facing initial objections but ultimately resolving the situation through dialogue.

Kajal noted that for the past two decades, she had voted as a female due to the lack of recognition for transgender individuals as a separate gender. Voting with her true identity brought her immense joy, marking a significant stride toward promoting gender awareness. She cast her vote at the government primary school in Mani Majra.

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