Guwahati, April 17, 2019:
As the ‘greatest carnival of democracy is on in full swing in India’, 180 ‘third gender’ voters have been registered to vote in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Thursday, but according to the founder of All Assam Transgender Association (AATA) Swati Bidhan Baruah, there is still a long way to go for the community which is only now finding its place in mainstream discussions.
In an exclusive interaction with InsideNE, Baruah said: “It is the exact data of the transgender person who have successfully gotten their names registered under the voter list as a transgender. But that does not mean that there are not 11,000 transgenders. It is because most of the transgenders are struggling to get their names changed. The name on the documents which they have after births is in ‘male’ category. That doesn’t mean 11,000 voters has been decreased to 180.
Baruah alleged that the Election Commission has not taken any concrete step to have the community enrolled as ‘transgender’. “The transgender population (in Assam) is more than 20,000”, she added.
Baruah said that the community has to struggle really hard in order to register under the ‘third gender’ category as changing the names and gender is a long and arduous process. “They have to write an affidavit, then they have to submit a news publication, then they will have to take that affidavit’s news publication and get a gazetted notification. The entire process takes one to one-and-a-half months”, she rued.
It may be mentioned that Swati holds the distinction of being the first transgender judge of Assam and northeast India, and the third in India, Swati Bidhan Baruah hails from the state’s strong LGBTQ+ community.