EC appoints first transgender goodwill ambassador

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on March 27, 2019 Published on March 27, 2019

Five years after being first enrolled as voters along with males and females, in another first for the transgender community, Shreegauri Sawant was appointed as one of the goodwill ambassadors of the Election Commission in Maharashtra. On being asked how she felt, the transgender activist said: “Being a transgender, it is a really golden opportunity, but it took us such a long time.”

It shouldn’t have taken this long, Sawant reiterated, pointing out how the transgender community was recognised by the Supreme Court as the “third gender” only in 2014 after a petition was filed by her, among others. For the first time, transgenders were enrolled as voters as there was no separate classification for them until then. “I am just a five-year-old baby because (it is) after 2014 that we got the recognition as a transgender. I feel blessed and there is more responsibility now,” she said.

“Being an ambassador, it is my responsibility to tell everyone to exercise their voting rights. I will go door to door, ask women to vote and whatever it is that my job entails, I will do it,” Sawant said.

“I have to motivate people because if the government has decided to give this golden opportunity to Shreegauri Sawant, I have to do the golden things, I have to do the remarkable work.”

On whether people have been asking her if she would encourage transgenders to vote, she replies in affirmative, although the question puzzled her. “Suppose I had become a doctor. Will I be asked the same question, whether I am going to treat only transgenders? I hope you got my answer,” she said.

Difficult process

However, she sheds light on certain bleak realities beleaguering the transgender community, adding that there is a long journey ahead.

“You have given me a balloon in my hand, you have shown me now you have to fly. The balloon is showing me that the sky is too far and the balloon won’t help me. Being an ambassador doesn’t mean it will change everything. I need my community to go to schools and colleges. Besides sex work, I need them to get good opportunities, good jobs…” she said firmly. Not all transgenders are registered under the law, with most of them not having their original identification proofs in place. The fact that most of them had run away from their homes at an early age also doesn’t help.

The process of changing their names after being identified a transgender or a sex change will not be allowed at the gazette office, which exacerbates the low registration factor, consequently triggering a low voter turnout as well, Sawant explained.

Even when people who have done the proper sex reassignment surgery from government hospitals go for aname change, the gazette officer doesn’t allow them, she lamented. Going forward, what all other positions and opportunities would she like to see opening up for transgenders?

She replied: “Every sector! Why (this) special (emphasis)...We are not handicapped, we deserve it. I want to see my people in every sector.”

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Published on March 27, 2019
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