December 29, 2008
Transgender Bangladeshis to vote today
by Rachel Charman
Today’s general elections in Bangladesh will be the first ever to allow transgender people to cast ballots. A Bangladeshi court ruled that transgender people are fully-fledged citizens and must have the right to vote. 100,000 transgender people are expected to be amongst the 81 million voters predicted to turn out to vote. Transgender social worker Joya Shikder said: “We’ve always been overlooked in previous elections. It’s exciting to be given this recognition but the authorities have stopped short of acknowledging us as a third gender.”Security has been tightened ahead of the election, following an outbreak of violence at a motorcade on Saturday which injured nearly 200 people. 500,000 army troops and thousands of security personnel have been deployed to keep the peace. The election will end a two-year period of emergency rule by an army-backed administration. Other minority groups have been granted the right to vote, including 40,000 Urdu-speaking Muslims, who originally migrated from Bihar after the partition of India in 1947, but were excluded from voting. Members of traveller communities and over 50,000 prisoners have also been enfranchised their right to vote.
by Ashok Deb
Personally I had been a good friend of Joya Sikdar,who is the chief organiser of Badhon Hizra Sangho,located at the outskirts of the city,Badda Dhaka.During my stay in Dhaka in 2006 I have seen Joya organise many demonstrations and street rallies for recognition of the third Gender by the Bangladeshi Government.In the last Election Period the Hizras/transexuals were given a choice to vote as males,as most of them are officially registered as males.But this offer was promptly rejected by the transexual community.I remember those days in mid 2006 when Joya tireless petitioned the Election Commision and the Home Ministry for recognition of the transxual rights.Even I participated in few of such demonstrations and travelled to Nimtoli in Narayanganj,which holds a sizeable third gender population,to conduct street workshop on safe sex procedures for them.Unfortunately Hijras are deprived of many facilities in our so-called society and they have to fight bitterly even for their basic civilian rights. The social approbation and governmental apathy has forced them to a life of begging. They live from hand to mouth and are insulted or ostracised everywhere.