Claiming ignorance and social stigma as the reasons for a meager 97 transgenders as registered voters in Jammu and Kashmir, members of the third gender have asked political parties to address their issue of lack of acceptance in the mainstream.
As the state is abuzz with the ongoing poll process ahead of the five-phased Assembly elections starting November 25, those belonging to the third gender are disenchanted with it. Neelu, a transgender who is part of a dance group that performs at social functions, says she has no faith in any political leader or party.
"In 2008, I went to attend several election rallies and in every rally, the politicians talked about the issue of men and women, but nobody ever spoke a single word about the problems we faced," Neelu said. She said politicians were not interested in their issues,as transgenders don't form a vote bank.
"We don't form a major vote bank for them, so they are least bothered about us. We don't exist for them and they don't exist for us". 47-year-old Kamla claims that there are a large number of transgenders in the state but they are afraid of being vocal about it due to social stigma and further leaving them disenchanted with the poll process.
"We too are humans, but we are not treated like one. People make fun of us as if it is our fault that we are born this way," said Kamla, a transgender hailing from RS Pura area and a registered voter from the constituency.
"There are more than 100 members of third gender in R S Pura alone whom I personally know, but as they are not interested in elections and have not registered themselves as voters," she added.
As per the data provided by the election commission out of the 72,25,559 voters registered in Jammu and Kashmir, 37,93,618 are male, 34,31,844 are female whereas only 97 are transgenders. Out of the 97 registered voters from third gender, 75 are in Kashmir province, whereas Jammu has only 20 registered voter from the third gender, remaining two are in Ladakh.
"There are many reasons that the members of third gender have not registered their votes. We always encourage people above 18 years of age to register for vote, but its up to the elected government to address their issues, so that they too feel like a part of mainstream," an official of the election commission requesting anonymity said.