BENGALURU: Karnataka has a transgender population of more than 70,000, but only about 4,700 people from this community have enrolled for voting. Worse, just about 5% of the registered transgender voters actually go to their polling stations to vote.
Transgenders are called by various names in different parts of the state — Jogappa, Shivashakti, Mangalamukhi and Hijra are some of them. In 2012, the Election Commission of India added a new column ‘Others’, so that transgenders could enrol without hesitation. Until then, very few transgenders had enrolled to vote either as ‘male’ or ‘female’.
Transgender activist Akkai Padmashali said very few transgenders have their identity papers. “Only a few thousand have voter IDs because most of them don’t have any documents to say they are residents of their localities,” she said.
Transgenders are not given houses on rent by landlords because of their identity. They normally stay with their seniors, and documents are in their seniors’ names, Akkai said. “We are planning to reach out to our community members across Karnataka, from where the heads of our communities will reach the districts, urging our people (transgenders) to enrol as voters. Let our voice be heard.’’
Some people have voter ID cards, but those cards pertain to the period before they became transgenders. “I have my voter card but I don’t want to vote with that card,’’ said Parichaya Gowda, the first transgender who works in the Women and Child Welfare department. She is now a resident of Bengaluru but does not have a voter ID card.
Ashita, from Kerala, who is staying with her seniors in Kengeri, does not have a voter ID card either. “With much difficulty, I have convinced officials and applied for a voter ID card and am waiting for it. Hopefully, I will vote this time,’’ said 26-year-old Ashita.
Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar said he is aware of the low percentage of voters among transgenders. “We have initiated an awareness programme where our officials go out and urge them to vote. We hope they will oblige,’’ he said. When asked about transgenders finding it difficult to get voter ID cards because of a lack of documents or address proof, he said, “If they (transgenders) bring it to our notice, we can help them.”
However, the number of transgenders voting in the assembly and Lok Sabha polls in 2013, 2014 and 2018 has been steadily increasing, and that is an encouraging trend (see box).