Bhubaneswar: Odisha is home to over 25,000 transgenders. The representatives from the transgender community are gearing up to contest the upcoming panchayat polls in the state in February. The community, however, has found itself on the crossroads, as the nomination papers have no mention of the third gender and the representatives have to file the nomination either as male or female.
35-year-old Menaka Kinnar, a transgender, attempted to contest for Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation elections in 2013 but was denied the opportunity on the grounds that transgenders did not qualify to file nomination from seats reserved for women candidates.
Despite the landmark judgement by the Supreme Court in 2014 that recognised transgenders as a legal third gender, the community rues that the situation has changed only on paper.
Shrabani Kinnar, another member of the community who wishes to run for panchayat elections said, “When it comes to fighting an election, the political parties and common people do not accept us. There is a sense of dislike towards us because we represent the third gender. Our rights are only on paper, we still file a nomination either as male or female.”
Menaka Kinnar, along with the members from her community, is now demanding a 5 per cent reservation in the upcoming panchayat polls in February.
According to her, the prime objective of contesting elections is to include transgenders in the mainstream, fight for their rights, educate them and make them independent.
She said, “We want to work at the grass root level and bring a political change. This is how mutual understanding and acceptance will increase.”
Due to discrimination faced by homosexuals, transgenders and sex workers in India, the transgender do not get access to care and treatment. Living with various socio-economic problems and limited avenues to voice themselves, the LGBT community is at a high risk of contracting HIV.
“There is a need for an extensive awareness campaign. We get tested for HIV once in six months but beyond that, there is neither any counseling nor any health care assistance,” said Menaka Kinnar, who wants to bring up the issue into the mainstream.