Transgenders in Maharashtra are becoming more aware of their electoral rights with Thane district registering the maximum voters from the community in the state this year.
In January 2014, there were only 261 voters enrolled in the ‘Others’ category in the state. In January 2015, the figure rose to 1,000 and last month it increased to 1,271 voters, according to a senior electoral officer.
Significantly, maximum registrations of 219 voters in this category came from Thane district, followed by Mumbai Suburban District with 174 and Ahmednagar with 111 voters.
The enrolling by transgenders as voters is not just restricted to these three districts. There are others too like Jalgaon 58, Akola 27, Amravati 47, Nagpur 79, Yavatmal 25, Nanded 54, Palghar 85, Mumbai City 69, Pune 79, Solapur 47, Kolhapur 58 and Sangli 49.
Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Shirish Mohod said, "We took the help of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) like Astitva of Laxmi Narayan Tiwari and Sangam, an NGO working amongst commercial sex workers, and held interactive meetings with the police officials," he said.
"The Election Commission of India (ECI) gave publicity material like placards, posters and audio-visual short films to create awareness among them," he said.
The ECI electoral registration officers also held camps in their areas of presence in Mumbai (Kamathipura) and Thane, he said.
Mohod said the transgenders’ main fear was harassment by police if they disclosed their profession and the other problem they faced was lack of documents like birth certificates and proof of residence.
"Since in the transgender community they have the ‘Guruji’ (head of the community) culture, it was decided to accept the certificate given by their Guruji," he said.
"Besides this, the police were told not to harass these people. Hence, you will find that in 2012 where we had zero registration in the Others category of voters, in 2015 it has swelled to 1,271," he said.