By Sheshu Babu*
Though small in number, the transgender community is an integral part of the country. But when elections take place, they are not even considered by most political parties to contest. The first transgender candidate from India’s westernmost state, Gujarat, for the Lok Sabha, Jaysawal Naresh Babulal, said that she would contest the elections eventhough she was forced to register as a male.
“No political party would accept my candidature, hence I confidently walked to the district collector, the Election Commission’s Returning Officer, to file as an independent candidate,” said Jaysawal. “Unfortunately I could not submit my name as a transgender, but as a male”, rues Raju Mataji, as she is popularly called. This is not the only incident.
In Kerala Ernakulam town, Aswathi Rajappan too faced insults when police ring- fenced Rajappan, a 25 -year old engineering graduate along with a friend and laughed when they were told that Aswathi was an independent candidate in the ongoing general elections. There are about four candidates contesting elections across castes and religions according to reports in “The Hindustan Times”.
Though transgender community is coming forward, the social discrimination persists in many parts of the country. Social acceptance has not improved appreciably despite verdict of Supreme Court in Nalsa vs Union of India case upholding their rights.
Braving all odds
In spite of many hurdles, transgender people are entering mainstream politics. Rajappan was stirred to join politics because of high rates of crime against transgender people and a commitment to anti- caste principles. Rajappan also desires to work for disabled, tribespeople besides working for intersex and transgender people and Dalits. The Aam Admi Party fielded a candidate from the Lok Sabha constituency of Prayagraj.
Though mainstream parties boast of equality and justice, they are yet to implement reservation for women in elections. Some parties like the Biju Janata Dal and Tranamool Congress have tried to show some progressive intent in fielding women. But, by and large, the transgender community face stigma and patriarchy from political parties as well as society.
The elections are being held amidst stark discrimination, inequality, hatred and lot of animosity. To large extent they are neither free nor fair. There is still a lot to be done to eradicate discrimination and bias
*Writer from anywhere and everywhere is interested in human rights