In a groundbreaking first for the country, the Election Commission of India appointed their first trans ambassador today (19 March).
The EIC elected Gauri Sawant, a Mumbai-based trans activist, as one of the 12 election ambassadors from the state.
Speaking to the Mumbai Mirror, the 38-year-old spoke of her optimism for the future of trans rights in India.
Ensuring trans people vote
Sawant said: ‘I felt relieved to know that I was appointed as one of the election ambassadors for the general election.
‘Polling days are holidays for housewives. But I want to ensure that each one of them go and vote.’
‘Not just housewives, but also women who are into sex work and every trans woman in this country.
‘They have equal right to have their say in the government they wish for.
She added: ‘I got appointed for my work and not my gender.’
Pooja Krishnakumar of LGBTI Desi group Gaysi said: ‘I think the event is something we all celebrate and pride ourselves on, given the violent history of trans rights, not only in India but around Asia and the world.
‘We’re also here hoping this is not a one-off occurrence and that more trans people join office, stand for elections and here’s hoping to more attention being given to the trans bill, to trans people and to better safety measures and policy.’
Who is Gauri Sawant?
Sawant moved out of her home in Pune to Mumbai and, after years of struggling, founded an NGO in 2000.
Furthermore, Sakhi Char Chowghi provides health care services and promotes sexual awareness among the Indian trans community.
Moreover, as their director, she became the first trans person to file a petition in the Supreme Court of India for adoption rights of trans people in 2014.
She was also a petitioner in the National Legal Services Authority case in which the Supreme Court recognised a third gender.
Outside of the courts, Sawant appeared in an advert for Vicks with her adopted daughter.
Trans rights in India
Sawant’s appointment comes just days after the trans community in Assam, India, threatened to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections.
They are demanding the state welfare department implement changes to a draft policy concerning the trans community.
More than 900 million Indians will be eligible to vote in the Lower House of Parliament elections taking place in April in May.