Ask India to Allow Transgender Individuals to Vote and Run for Public Office

Target: Prime Minister Monmohan Singh

Goal: Allow transgender individuals to vote and run for office without identifying as either male or female

In India, physiological males that adopt a feminine gender identity are known as “hijras.” They exist in a social and legal limbo, because on one hand, they have a religious significance in Hinduism and the government recognizes them as a “third sex,” yet they must identify as male or female in order to vote or run for office. Sign the petition to allow transgenders to vote and run for office without being required to identify as male or female.

India granted legal recognition to hijras in 1994, recognizing transgenders as a “third sex.” This allowed them to identify themselves as “E” (standing for eunuch) on their passport and certain government documents.

Such a classification, in addition to being degrading, fails to grant hijras full legal and political rights. It fails to recognize that while some hijras are intersex and lack male gentalia, or have both or partially formed genetalia, many are physiological men who wear female clothing and adopt female gender roles. In order to register to vote or run for elected office hijras must identify as male or female. This deters many transgenders from voting or entering politics. In the 2009 general election the Indian Election Commission barred three hijra candidates because they failed to identify as male or female.

Hijras face severe discrimination in health, housing and employment. Many are forced to earn a living by performing in religious ceremonies, begging or sex work. They are also frequently the targets of violence from society and the police. Only greater hijra participation in the political process will help protect their rights. Sign the petition to ask the Indian government to allow transgenders to vote and run for office without identifying as male or female.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Monmohan Singh,

I am writing as a concerned human rights activist to ask you to allow hijras to vote and run for office without identifying as males or females. The position of hijras in Indian society is a paradox that has allowed them certain privileges, but they also face extreme discrimination.

Despite recognizing transgender as a “third sex” in 1994, hijras still face extreme discrimination in health, housing and employment. While allowing them some legal recognition is an improvement of their condition, the classification of “E” as eunuch is degrading.

Many are forced to beg and work as sex workers where they are exposed to abuse. The only way transgenders are able to protect themselves is if they have political agency. This includes the right to vote and run for office. Forcing hijras to identify as male and female deters political participation and inhibits improving their social and economic conditions.

I hope you consider changing the law to allow hijras to vote and stand for office without identifying as male or female.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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Signatures

  • alper arslan
  • radhika narang
  • Abhishek Gutpa
  • roomani shah
  • stefan hellmann
  • Stefano Serpico
  • Leia Peison
  • Lisa Bean
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