Poor awareness & tedious paperwork: Why only 8,467 transpersons have voter IDs in TN

As per the 2011 census, the number of transgender people in Tamil Nadu was 22,364 and in the last 12 years, the number would have doubled, at least.
From a poll awareness rally held by the queer community.
From a poll awareness rally held by the queer community.(Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

CHENNAI: Out of the 6.23 crore voters enrolled in the state, the voting population of transgender people is a meagre 8,467 as per the data of the state election commission. The figure has triggered concerns among the community members who points out that the number is much lower than their actual population.

As per the 2011 census, the number of transgender people in Tamil Nadu was 22,364 and in the last 12 years, the number would have doubled, at least. According to an estimate by activists, there are not less than 60,000 transgender people in the state but due to their minuscule representation in the voters’ list, they feel left out in the electoral process.

Apart from social stigma, community members attribute lack of a proper survey and awareness by the state government and election commission as the main reasons behind the poor enrollment.

Grace Banu, a transgender rights activist, blamed the state government for not conducting a proper survey. “TN claims to be one of the first states in the country to introduce a transgender welfare policy, but what is its use if you don’t have exact data on the community’s population?” asked Banu, who has filed a petition in the Madras HC seeking reservation for trans people in job and education.

(Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

The activist claimed until three years ago, to get a transgender ID card, the community members had to undergo medical and psychiatric tests, due to which many refrained from getting it. And without a transgender ID card, it is difficult to get a voters’ ID with the gender rightly mentioned.

“As per my voter ID card, I’m a female. Due to the tedious paperwork, I never tried to update it as trans woman,” she added.

M Radha, a trans woman who contested in the 2019 general election and is currently a member of the transgender welfare board, said that trans people can easily get the ID cards using Aadhaar card.

K Padma, another trans woman, said before every poll, the election commission runs campaigns to raise awareness on voting but they have not focused on educating transgender people about the process. “If we are not counted as voters, how will the political parties work for our welfare?” asked Padma.

Jaya from Sahodaran, an LGBTQIA+ organisation, said, “Due to a lack of awareness and burden of paperwork, many trans individuals vote by categorising themselves as male or female.”

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