Kerala is estimated to have about 25,000 transgenders, but number officially registered in the voters' list for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls is only 119, that too after a massive campaign by election officials.
Social stigma is considered to be the major cause for this, apart from other reasons like lack of adequate documents.
The number is an improvement from previous years. Just two persons had enrolled as transgenders during the 2016 Assembly elections in Kerala. Out of the two enrolled, only one cast vote. In the 2015 local body elections, 111 people had registered as transgender.
Shyama S, a transgender rights activist, told DH that they were seeing a positive trend, as the number of transgender voters increased considerably over these years. "We strongly feel that in the coming years, more transgenders would come out of the social stigma," she said.
She also said that many transgenders are pushed out of their homes by their families and did not even get elementary school. As such, they might not have any valid documents to be produced before election officials for enrolling themselves as transgenders, Shyama added.
Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena said that numbers increased to the present level after a massive campaign, where election officials held meetings with the transgender community and persuaded many to enrol their names. Sreemayi, who recently enrolled as transgender, said that not everyone would like to reveal their identity owing to the social stigma. Many who had undergone sex reassignment surgery would register themselves as either male or female.
Transgender community members also pointed out that it was owing to this social stigma that only around 1,000 people have enrolled for the welfare schemes for the community.