‘Need more sensitisation among poll officials on third gender’

Kolkata, April 30 (IANS) On a day when West Bengal made history with a third gender managing a polling booth in the assembly polls, a prominent leader of the transgender community here has lamented the lack of sensitisation among polling officers regarding the ‘other’ category.

Transgender activist Ranjita Sinha has also hit out at the lack of co-ordination between the state’s transgender welfare board and the Election Commission.

“When I went to cast my vote in a booth in Bhabanipur constituency in Kolkata South, the presiding officer and other officials were confused as to the ‘others’ category I am enlisted in. They wanted me to be placed in ‘general’.

“After insisting a few times, they relented and let me vote. This shows how unaware they are. Since I am an activist and I am known in the area, I was able to push but what about the others in rural pockets who are shy to come out and vote,” Sinha posed.

“There is a huge lack of sensitisation among poll officers,” Sinha, who has voted as a third gender for the second time this assembly poll, told IANS.

Close to Bhabanipur, state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s seat, is the Rashbehari segment in south Kolkata where Riya Sarkar, a transwoman, carried out her duties at a booth as a presiding officer.

“I am very proud and I have struggled a lot to get here. I hope there is more awareness now among everybody,” said a smiling Sarkar, adding voters were co-operating.

Smita Pandey, district election officer, Kolkata South, however, lamented more third gender members could not be deployed as they were not employed in government service.

Of the 6.5 crore voters in West Bengal, the number of registered voters from the third gender is a mere 758.

A former member of the state’s transgender welfare board, Sinha also lamented the “abysmally low” numbers of transgenders registered as voters.

“Census has a huge role to play. There was no co-ordination between the board and the poll panel. If the board had co-ordinated then we could have had enrolled more members. Further, the ruling party formed the board but did not put up any third gender candidate,” Sinha said.

It is estimated around 30,000 members of the third gender live in Bengal. North Dinajpur district has the highest number of third genders with around 52 members. District officials had earlier told IANS that many end up enlisting as ‘male’ or ‘female’.



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