Dalit Transgender woman in India’s Bangalore contests local election, motivates community to fight for it’s rights
Christy Raj, a transgender himself, tells us about Veena S – the first member of his community in Bangalore who entered the poll fray this year. Veena – a male to female transgender and a Dalit, contested the election of Bangalore municipality this March 2010. Though she did not win, her move has inspired the entire community to stand up and claim their rights that have been denied for long.
In February 2010 the election commission of India – the apex body that conducts the elections in the country – allowed intersex and transsexuals the right to register as voters. Following this Veena decided to contest in the local election. She was supported by her community members and NGOs in Bangalore working for the rights of sexual minority.
Born into a poor Dalit family, Veena grew up in a slum and experienced all the hardships that the transgender community members in India face: deprivation of civic rights such as claiming employment and health benefits, right to marry and own a passport or a driving license. Worse still, she couldn’t claim the benefits of the public distribution system (PDS) that allows Indian citizens to buy essential items such as rice or cooking gas at subsidized prices.
Veena has been fighting against this denial of rights. However, despite the difficulties, she has managed to gain the support of the hijra, (transsexual women), Dalits, and sex workers, which led to her selection as a candidate.
According to Christy Raj, Veena’s participation has been a symbolic breakthrough for her community. It has inspired the entire community to claim the rights that they have been denied for long, says Christy who neither has a ration card himself, nor a passport.
Christy feels that though Veena lost this election, from now on there will be increased transgender participation in elections. With support from non-governmental organisations and platforms, transgender people are organising to demand jobs, protection and entitlements.
“Until now we have only been perceived as beggars, sex workers and troublemakers. Now, Veena’s decision to contest the election has sent the message that we transgenders can also play the role of leaders,’ says Christy.