Trans people prepare to vote for first time in correct gender on Valentine’s Day
A group of trans people in Goa, India, will vote in their recognised gender for the first time on Valentine’s Day.
The assembly elections in Goa, slated for 14 February, will mark the first time that the niune trans people have voted using voter registration cards that correctly record their gender. At the last Goan elections, in 2019, there were no registered trans voters.
India’s Supreme Court legally recognised trans people as a ‘third gender’ in 2014, at a time when the trans population was estimated to be around three million people, but the process to register is slow and many trans people do not have access to it.
Now, seven trans people from South Goa and two from North Goa have been registered as ‘third gender’, according to local news, following outreach efforts from an anti-trafficking organisation called Anyay Rahit Zindagi.
“We were trying to enroll transgender [people] in the electoral polls and with the help of several NGOs, seven transgender voters have been enrolled,” said Goa’s chief electoral officer, Kunal IAS, during a press conference.
Several more trans women were also enlisted, as part of the registration effort, to raise awareness about the importance of voting.
Trans people in India often lack identification documents, or have documents in the wrong gender, which can exclude them from voting. While ID documents in the correct gender are available through an online portal, without the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, activists point to the fact that many trans people will not have access to a computer.
This means that trans people in India are often excluded from social safety nets, making it difficult to get jobs or secure housing. Many end up begging or doing sex work to survive.
Trans women who will vote in India make money by begging
Three of the trans women who will vote on 14 February, Zareen, Heena and Monica, spoke to India Today about their lives, describing how they make money through begging at a train station.
“Whenever a train stops at the station, we get inside and ask passengers for money. Some feel that our blessings are good, hence, they give us money, but many abuse us. Still, many say nasty things to us and tease us with various names,” said Heena.
Zareen spoke about moving to Goa: “I saw many call girls along the beaches in Goa but I didn’t want to do that work as I had seen many people die of HIV. A sex worker then told me to go to Madgaon and beg at the railway station.
“I went to Madgaon station and started begging. I had never done it before but I managed to earn money and so I stayed back and since then I have been begging at the railway station.”