Social taboo, ostracism keep most of them away from actively participating in election process
By M.T. Yogesh Kumar
Mysore/Mysuru: Despite the push for equality for sexual minorities in the society, many still hesitate to fully engage with society, as evidenced by their reluctance to participate in the biggest democratic exercise — elections. While Indians recognise sexual minorities as a part of their society, they have not been completely main-streamed yet.
In 2014, the Election Commission made history by categorising sexual minorities as the ‘third gender’ following a landmark Supreme Court ruling. While the Apex Court’s decision affirmed that transgender individuals would be granted the same fundamental rights under the Constitution as everyone else, the reality is that their participation in elections remains low.
To increase the poll percentage in the upcoming May 10 Assembly polls, the District Administration has launched various programmes and measures. As part of this effort, authorities recently held a meeting with transgender community leaders to sensitise them on the importance of voting.
Under the theme of “No voter will be left out,” the District Administration has taken steps to ensure that sexual minorities are included in the electoral rolls, including making any necessary corrections. They have also created a special category for sexual minorities in the electoral rolls.
An estimated 1,500 sexual minorities reside in the Mysuru district, but only 223 have enrolled in the voter list, according to recent data. In the previous elections, only a few sexual minorities were registered in the electoral rolls.
Taking note of this, the District Administration launched a special voter enrolment drive from March 29 to April 12. However, the drive saw only 10 sexual minorities, including two each from Chamaraja, Chamundeshwari and Krishnaraja Constituencies, and three from Narasimharaja and one from Varuna segment getting enrolled. Unfortunately, more than 1,200 sexual minorities did not enrol during the drive. With such a low voter enrolment, the entire exercise seems futile.
Out of the 11 Constituencies in the district, Narasimharaja has the highest number of transgender voters while Nanjangud has the lowest. According to the latest electoral rolls, there are 49 transgender voters in Narasimharaja, 33 in Chamundeshwari, 31 in Chamaraja, 27 in Krishnaraja, 19 in K.R. Nagar, 14 in T. Narasipur, 13 in Varuna, 13 in Hunsur, 11 in H.D. Kote, 7 in Periyapatna and only 6 in Nanjangud.
Why low turnout?
One reason for the disinterest and low turnout of sexual minorities in elections is that they are spread across different areas and do not form a significant vote bank in any one Constituency.
According to an activist, “There is ignorance for sure. Also, because the community is not concentrated in one place, they are spread out in different areas. As a result, they may not add up to a substantial number in any one Constituency.” This makes it difficult for political parties to prioritise and mobilise them as a distinct voting bloc. With the exception of a few parties giving tickets to a candidate from sexual minority community, there has been little effort to make a candidate from sexual minority community the face of a party’s election campaign. As a result, there is a trust deficit between political parties and transgender voters.
Neglect & discrimination
Pranati Prakash, head of Seven Rainbow Organisation (an organisation for sexual minority communities in the city), told SOM that her organisation has been continuously working to ensure that all eligible members of the community are enrolled in the electoral rolls. Noting that a survey indicated that there are more than 1,500 sexual minorities in the district, she explained that there are three subcategories of the community and that all of them have been sensitised to the importance of voter enrolment.
Pranati Prakash also expressed regret at the neglect and discrimination the transgender community faces, which has led to a lack of interest in engaging with society and participating in voter registration. Nevertheless, her organisation will be launching programmes to instil confidence among sexual minorities and encourage them to participate in the democratic process, she added.
It is important to note that members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community are making significant contributions in various fields. Therefore, they should look up to these achievers as role models and integrate into mainstream society without any hesitation or inferiority complex, according to social activist K.R. Sowmya.
She emphasised the importance of exercising the right to vote, which is a Constitutional right guaranteed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. She expressed her disappointment that, despite the District Administration’s best efforts, the transgender community’s voter registration fell short of the target. Sowmya also encouraged the 223 community members in the district who have already enrolled to vote in the May 10 elections as a display of their responsibility and duty in the democratic setup. She added that the LGBT community members should not feel inferior and should take inspiration from the achievers in various fields to come to the mainstream society without any hesitation.