'Third sex' want recognition for Indian election

India’s transgender community today threatened to boycott the general election voting unless they are recognised as a “third sex”.

The one-million-strong community is pushing for recognition on Election Photo Identity Cards (Epic).

“We will not vote if nobody pays heed to our demand. We want the government to give us a separate status on voters ID cards,” Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, an activist and transvestite said.

Epic cards require voters to establish their sex but Sangama, a group which actively works for sexual minorities, said this creates a problem as many argue that transgenders are not truly women.

Akkai, a transgender activist who uses only the one name, told the Press Association: “No political party works for sexual minority communities. They do not address our problems. We have to face discrimination even when applying for voters’ ID cards.

“The election commission has not really provided for us. I don’t think any party that comes to power in this election will work for our future.

“It will take a long time to happen, but we will not give up our fight.

“I myself have been struggling to get my voter’s ID card but there have been problems because of my identity,” the activist said.

“Sangama has worked for more than 10 years and has been able to create awareness in major cities like Bangalore about different sexual identities. Previously, no one even knew that sexual minorities existed, but now they do,” Akkai added.

Bangalore, Kolkatta and New Delhi hosted gay parades last year in the first nationally-co-ordinated pride marches in a campaign to overturn a law forbidding homosexuality.

Indian law states that “unnatural” sexual intercourse is criminal. Offenders are faced with up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Many literary figures have criticised the law, the most prominent being Vikram Seth. Although very few people have been arrested or convicted, many transgenders prefer not to come out.

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