Guwahati: A minuscule number of voters in Assam exercised their franchise under their chosen identity for the first time. Among the 491 ‘third gender’ voters registered in the state, 24 had cast their vote during the three-phased Lok Sabha elections.
Swati Bidhan Baruah, Assam’s first transgender judge, said she was forced to cast her vote under the ‘Male’ category as she could not get her 'documents rectified'. According to Baruah, the low turnout of voters in the Trans community is primarily because many had failed to change the gender option in the application form for electoral cards. A lack of awareness and social anxiety are among other reasons why they could not vote under their choice of gender.
“I wanted to vote under the ‘third gender’ option but could not. I had approached the office of the Chief Election Officer to get my documents rectified to my choice of gender, but I was asked to come after general elections,” said Baruah.
Assam chief electoral officer Mukesh Sahu told News 18 that no one approached him personally in this regard.
“Nobody came to me for gender correction. But if somebody wants to get their name corrected, they can do so in the form itself – they can apply from their constituency through the Booth Level Officer (BLO), Electoral Registration Officer (ERO), or follow the online process. They can do it anytime,” said Sahu.
A total of 11,00,746 male voters and 10,77,793 female voters are registered under 7-Gauhati parliamentary constituency. Of the 78 registered voters in the 'third gender' category in Guwahati, only four had cast their ballot – two each from Dispur and Dudhnoi (ST) assembly constituencies.
First time voters Dev Mandal and Nilutpal Tarafdar exercised their franchise in Tezpur under the ‘male’ category. According to data available with the office of the chief election officer, only one from the ‘third gender’ category had cast vote in Phase I of the Lok Sabha elections from Tezpur.
“I wanted to vote under the Trans category but I could not. I didn’t know how to go about it. Next time, I will apply for my correct identity in the gender column,” said Tarafdar, who is pursuing graduation in sociology from Darrang College, Tezpur.
Baruah, who has long been fighting for the rights of Assam’s Transgender community, said there was no separate line for voters from the Trans community at the polling station.
“When I went to our polling booth here in Pandu, I found four queues – for male, female, persons with disability and senior citizens. There was no separate line for transgender voters. I approached the office of the chief electoral officer and apprised the authorities of the problem. The polling personnel at our station then made provision for another row,” said Baruah.
Baruah said her friends from the Trans community stood in a separate queue but voted under the ‘male’ category. According to the 2011 census, population of transgender in Assam is 11,374. In Guwahati alone, there are about 5,000 people from the LGBT+ community. This time around, 11 from ‘third gender’ category voted in Phase I, five in Phase II and eight others in Phase III of the general elections.
Assam recorded an overall poll percentage of 81.52% -- the male voter turnout has been 81.73%, female turnout 81.30% and 4.89% third gender turnout.