Trans voters use correct identity in Indian general election for first time

Women holding placards during a rally

Members of Delhi’s transgender and non-binary community have voted for the first time under their correct identity in India’s general election.

The Indian election—which takes place from April 11 until May 19—is the first to be called since a landmark ruling by the country’s Supreme Court gave legal recognition to trans and non-binary people in 2014.

A previous ruling had given voters the choice of ticking a third gender on ballot forms, but they could not have their gender recognised on voter ID cards.

“I could have voted with my old ID but it listed me as a male. I have a new identity now and my new ID card represents that,” one voter, Rhiana, told The Hindu.

“I have a new identity now and my new ID card represents that.”

—Rhiana, a transgender woman in Delhi

Rhiana is one of about 130 trans and non-binary people who self-declared their gender to register after a special drive by poll officials.

“We were not asked for doctor certificates to prove we are transgender, which often happens in such situations,” another voter named Sania told The Hindu.

In total, Delhi has 795 third-gender voters. Since the Supreme Court ruling—which came one week into India’s 2014 election—trans and non-binary people have been able to apply for jobs, welfare, education and health care with their proper identity.

LGBT+ rights take centre stage in Indian election

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is fighting off competition from left-wing candidate Rahul Gandhi in the general election, the largest in the world.

In December 2018, Modi’s government passed a Transgender Persons Bill which has been widely rejected by trans people.

Many have argued that the law, aimed to protect trans citizens, could have a negative impact on their livelihoods.

Gandhi’s party, the Indian National Congress, has pledged to withdraw the bill and replace it with legislation drafted in consultation with the LGBT+ community.

A woman holding a placard reading "kill the transbill"

A member of the Indian transgender community protests against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill in New Delhi on December 28, 2018.(CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty)

Priya Dutt, Congress MP for Mumbai North Central, said at a rally on Sunday (April 21): “Gandhi feels strongly about LGBT rights.

“We want to make it happen across constituencies, and not just in a particular city or state. Just like a human right cell, a different cell dedicated for LGBT is the need of the hour.”

Dutt noted that Apsara Reddy—a transgender activist—was appointed general secretary of Mahila Congress, the party’s women’s wing.

Modi has also come under criticism for remaining silent on the 2018 Supreme Court decision to decriminalise gay sex.