Trans activist Meera Parida led a number of trans women entering politics in the state of Odisha, west India in the last week.
The Mahila Janata Dal (BMJD) party named Meera as Vice President last week. She is the first trans woman to hold the position.
‘This is a small step in the right direction that may well lead to a LGBTQ wing in a political party sometime in the future’ she said, according to Odisha News Insight.
The 38-year-old said she wanted to contest a seat in the Begunia constituency in Khurda district.
Meera is Chairman of the All Odisha Third Gender Welfare Trust. She also launched an NGO to protect the rights of transgender people in Odisha.
Meanwhile, Kajal Nayak, 27, also is running for a Korei Assembly constituency seat in Jajpur district, according to the Orissa Post.
Menaka Kinnar joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Menaka will run for a seat in Bhubaneswar.
‘No society can improve unless women are empowered. I want to give the message that eunuchs (third gender) are not inferior to anyone,’ she said.
Trans visibility in India
India’s general elections starting this month will be the first time trans Indians can vote as a third gender.
But, according to local media, not many transgender voters have registered.
Nearly 39,000 voters have registered as ‘third gender’. But, a 2014 census found there to be at least 500,000 Indians who identified as transgender.
What’s more, Sneha Kale made headlines as the first-ever trans woman to run in the general election.
And the local government of one of India’s largest states, Karnataka, appointed its first transgender employee.
India’s first Miss Trans Queen also joined one of the country’s largest political parties.
Earlier this year, the same party appointed its first transgender office-bearer..
Violence continues, however. One trans politician running for office in Hyderabad went missing during her election campaign.
Last month, a man decapitated a trans priestess in her temple.
India’s Supreme Court in 2014 recognized trans identities as a third gender.
But, the community remains marginalized. Families and employers shun trans individuals.
What’s more, activists have slammed a trans rights bill currently in the Upper House of Parliament. They say it further infringes rights rather than protects them.