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Transgenders Want Political Space In Tamil Nadu

in INDIA, 20/03/2011

The 30,000-strong transgender community, mostly living in the fringes of society in Tamil Nadu, wants political space in the state to voice their plight.

As the populace Tamil Nadu state goes into election mode, with polls slated for April 13, transsexual leaders are lobbying to contest to prove they are a force to be reckoned with, like the other genders.

One of the socially progressive states in India, the southern state was the first to recognise their identity in 2009, but thousands are still mired in poverty, deprived of jobs and suffer social stigma.

"We need to create political rights for our community. Still, there are problems like gender identity, education and employment. We want laws and national policies to protect our rights and welfare," Priya Babu, writer and president of the Tamil Nadu Aravanigal Association told Bernama in an interview today.

The ruling Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) party has recognised transsexuals -- issuing voter identity cards, food ration cards, funds for surgery and housing facilities.

But these welfare schemes are beyond the reach of many illiterate and helpless transsexuals, many of whom are forced into becoming street entertainers or sex workers to eke out a living.

At least, two transgender members are seeking tickets to contest in the polls next month, but are unlikely to be nominated in the highly-charged elections.

Nominations for the polls started on Saturday.

South Indian political giants -- DMK party led by octogenarian M. K. Karunanidhi and All India Anna Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (AIADMK) headed by once popular actress-turned politician J. Jayalalithaa -- are gearing to control the state.

"We need to be presented at state assembly level, only then we can express our plight. The current government has done a lot but many of us are still unemployed and struggling for survival," added Ramya Ellakiya, a transsexual-turned-social worker.

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