Hijras legally 3rd gender but yet to get rights

Though the government has recognised the transgender or hijra as the third gender over two and a half years back, the Election Commission is yet to enroll them as voters and provide them with national identity (NID) cards with their distinct sexual identity.

Currently, the hijra community members have to be enlisted as either male or female since there is no option given in the voter registration form or in the NID card to write third gender as their sex, discouraging many of them to be voters.

According to the latest voter list published on January 31, 2016, the number of the country's total voters is 9,98,98,553, including 5,03,20,362 men and 4,95,78191 women. But no statistics regarding hijra or third gender was shown in the updated list.

Right activists and hijra leaders think the EC is not only ignoring the hijra community but also defying the government's order by refraining from implementing the cabinet's decision to identify hijra as third gender in all official documents.

In November 2013, the cabinet approved a “policy decision” to identify hijras as people of a separate gender or the third in order to secure their rights, enabling them to identify their gender as “hijra” in all government documents, including passports and NID cards.

Later on January 16, 2014, the government issued a gazette notification in this connection.

Sachetan Samajseba Hijra Sangha President Ivan Ahmed Katha told the news agency, “We feel embarrassed to identify ourselves as men or women. We also hesitate to stand in queues of either male or female voters to exercise our voting rights. Though there's a separate option (others) for hijras in the passport form, we can not use it as there is no such option in the birth certificate and the NID card,” Katha added.

Pinky Shikdar, chief of Badhan Hijra Sangha, said they are facing many problems, as they are still deprived of basic rights since their third gender identity is yet to be implemented. “The government should give us third gender identity through parliament.”

Soliman, a hijra of Mirpur who graduated in tourism and tourism management, said they now face serious problems in renting houses and availing of state facilities.

Solaiman said the government should take steps so that they can get proper share of their paternal property as third gender. “It also can introduce quota in various public jobs for third gender.”

ActionAid Bangladesh country director and rights activist Farah Kabir urged the government to take action in this regard and give the Election Commission a deadline to implement its decision. Asked whether the commission will take any plan to recognise hijras as third gender in the voter list, EC Secretary Md Sirazul Islam claimed it has already been included in the new voter registration form following the cabinet decision.

But no option of third gender or hijra or other was found in the form provided in the EC's website on Friday.

According to an official figure, the number of transgender is around 10,000 in Bangladesh, but Badhan Hijra Sangha and some other hijra organisations claim it will be nearly 1 lakh.


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