Amritsar, January 15
The final voter list in the district was released by the district electoral office recently with total 19,44,090 eligible voters ready to exercise their franchise.
One of the basic issues is lack of awareness and education, which keeps most members away from exercising their Right to Vote. Until 2014, third gender was not recognised by the EC, so many voters still have either male or female written on their voter cards. We have been working with officials to change that and make new cards mentioning third gender. Also, many in the community hesitate to come forward and share their political opinion as freely as others due to lack of representation. - Mohini Mahant, Punjab-based LGBT rights activist & first transgender jurist at National Lok Adalat in Punjab
The breakdown includes 68 third gender eligible voters. While the number of PwD voters (People with disabilities) has increased from previous years as there are 13,000 new PwD voters, the number of third gender voters has remained the same, with a slight addition of 10 new voters since 2017. The reasons can be many for the low registration of third gender voters. But members of the community, who have been actively working with SVEEP teams to increase voter registration and turnout, spell out some glaring ones.
“One of the basic issues in the community is lack of awareness and education, which keeps most members away from exercising their Right to Vote. Until 2014, third gender was not recognised by the Election Commission, so many voters still have either male or female written on their voter cards. We have been working with officials to change that and make new cards mentioning third gender. Also, many in the community hesitate to come forward and share their political opinion as freely as others due to lack of representation. Political parties or electoral agencies must pick icons from the community to encourage others to join the electoral process,” says Mohini Mahant, Punjab-based LGBT rights activist and the first transgender jurist at the National Lok Adalat in Punjab. A PhD holder who also has double Masters degree, Mohini has been running a non-profit organisation at Majitha Road and she was the SVEEP icon during the voter registration campaign in Ludhiana, where she works and has been actively creating awareness among the third gender regarding their electoral rights and duties in Amritsar as well.
Dimple, another third gender community leader from Haripur, in the city, says that though, the number of registered voter might be less among the community, the ones who are registered have been actively casting their votes.
“The biggest challenge is that not many members of the community are educated. So, they hesitate to join any mainstream process due to social stigma. We have been trying to raise our issues through active participation in awareness programmes. May be with time, it will encourage many others to finally be a part of the system,” Dimple said.
As far as their issues are concerned, employment and education remain their top concern. Mohini, who has been campaigning to bring the community into the mainstream, says separate washroom facility for third gender, share in employment opportunities in public as well as private sector and education are the most important election issues for them. She had been running from pillar to post to get her demand of separate cremation ground for the third gender for the last few years.
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