When it comes to the electoral politics, every vote counts, which means all citizens registered with the Election Commission of India (ECI) get to cast their vote to their favoured candidate. The beauty of any democracy is its all-inclusive nature, which not only provides its citizens with the various freedoms but also lays down basic rights and duties that they exercise and enjoy. An all-inclusive country should have an all-inclusive society and that means every person irrespective of their cast, color, religion or sexual orientation should have equal voting rights.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 5% of any total population is homosexual (queer) and that is quite a big number. However, out of the total population of Nagpur which is around 25 lacs (including rural areas), only 77 transgender are registered with the ECI and out of those 77, only 14 came in to vote yesterday. There were a few cases wherein a few gay men came to vote but they did not find their names in the voters’ list and some transgender, who were born a male or a female ended up voting as a male or a female because that’s how they are still identified as on their ID cards.
So, is the city of Nagpur waking up to the reality?
Well! The scenario and response still lurks in ambiguity. There are many gays and lesbians who are still afraid to come out to their families. There has been a certain stigma attached to a person’s sexual orientation, especially, if that does not comply with the normal parameters- the biggest of them being that a man marries a woman ONLY. Many homosexuals compromise with their real identity because of the underlying fear of non-acceptance by their own family and friends. Some remain closeted forever, while some who are bold enough to come out to their families are accepted but with a lump in the throat.
Anand Chandrani, gay activist and the founder of Sarathi Trust, says that, “homosexuals and even their families need proper counselling. Many homosexuals are confused themselves and only counselling can help them steer in the right direction.” Anand further, adds that, “the LGBTQ community should be granted basic equal rights such as the right to marry and right to adopt children.” He has his hopes high that the constitution will definitely work towards a better LGBTQ representation.
Thankfully, LGBT are not purged from the rolls. Although, some don’t vote, or some are still registered as male or female- the logistics of voting can be prohibitive for low-income people, and queer and transgender are two of the most economically insecure populations in most of countries. Most of the times, their needs aren’t reflected in the agendas of the candidates on the ballot. Also to create a democracy that works for all LGBTQ, we need to improve our voter registration systems. Of course, far more work is required to break free from systemic exclusion and a new systemic inclusion. We need more conversations among not only queer communities, but society as a whole needs to come forward and extend their acceptance to them. Only then, their community issues can be addressed and it would mitigate their other socio-economic burdens.
LGBTQ community has been disproportionately affected by unnecessary harsh registration laws, sometimes in order to marginalize their influence in the political process or sometimes because no one takes them seriously. It is 2019, and we must all try and be fair to all the demographic groups. It’s time we understand that LBBTQ perspectives are critical in understanding the present day manifestations of the democratic inclusion.
Hopefully, the LGBTQ community of Nagpur would find a better representation in the electoral process and in the city as well. They have a voice and it should be heard just like the rest of us.