Maharashtra will be the first state to launch a special awareness drive to ensure that transgenders in the state register as voters in greater numbers. The state branch of the Election Commission of India (ECI) will launch the drive on April 15, celebrated as Third Gender Day.
According to ECI officials, despite the approximate population of third genders in Maharashtra being pegged at more than 10 lakh, only about 1,700 are registered voters.
The ECI has prepared a two-and-a-half-minute film, slated to run in 400 theatres four times a day over the next week.The commission has also put up posters on two 12-rake locals asking transgenders to register as voters.
“A major section of the transgender community lives in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and travels by trains. They said films are a major source of entertainment. Keeping this in mind, we will stage a campaign to reach out to them. We will meet NGOs and community members on April 15, commemorated as Third Gender Day. It was on this day in 2014 that the Supreme Court gave these people the status of a ‘third gender’,” said Shirish Mohod, deputy chief electoral officer, Maharashtra.
“Not a single person registered as transgender in 2012. Today, there are 1,700. We have come a long way. However, the latest figure is still small as many transgenders register as male or female. In several cases, they do not register at all, citing discriminatory treatment,” he said.
“Maharashtra was one of two states to approve a welfare board for transgenders in 2013, but no one has been appointed to the body yet. For want of such a body, we have not been able to effectively place our demands before the government. This is why we do not have accurate figures on the number of people who identify as transgender in Maharashtra. According NGOs, there more than 10 lakh such people in the state. However, the 2011 status pegs this figure at 41,000. We welcome the ECI drive as it will help us get social recognition,” said Laxmi Tripathi, who heads several organisations working for the community.