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Friday, 28 February 2014

Chennai: Reflecting the woes of transgenders who have remained social 'untouchables' with restricted access to education and jobs, only a minuscule 2,996 transgenders in Tamil Nadu enrolled themselves in the 5.3 crore strong voters list.

Amid growing calls and even court observations to give the transgenders their due space in the society, the third gender persons continue to face discrimination due to lack of awareness and various other factors.

Though the Election Commission took socially sensitive initiative to provide a third gender option "others" in 2009 itself to allow transsexuals to take part in the democratic exercise, the enrolment of the community has been abysmal.

According to the 2014 summary revision electoral data, only 2,996 transgenders had registered themselves as voters in 39 Parliamentary constituencies in Tami Nadu though their actual population is much more than that. According to an official of Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO), working for the health and welfare of transgenders, the third sex persons in the state should be "at least ten times" more than 2996.

The low enrollment was mainly due to poor awareness. "The message that a voter ID card could help them access government welfare schemes like pension did not percolate among them. Besides a section of transgenders are always on the move," ICWO Secretary A J Hariharan says.

In a report presented to the UNDP-India (United Nations Development Programme-India) in 2012, on developing models for social protection of transgender people, Dr Venkatesan Chakrapani of Centre for Sexuality and Health Research and Policy (C-SHaRP), mentions that enumeration was one of the first activities conducted by the TN Transender Welfare Board in 2008 and in 2009.

Priya Babu, a transgender community leader who served as the co-investigator of the UNDP-India study says the enumeration was not completed.    

"Rough estimates indicate that there may be more than 30,000 transgenders in Tamil Nadu. A drive should be held to enroll the transgenders in a time-bound manner," she added.    

A proper enumeration would help the third gender community in its pursuit of quota in education and job opportunities to help them overcome the social stigma and lead decent lives.



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