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Members of the third gender can vote as 'hijra'

  • Published at 12:37 am April 19th, 2019
Members of transgender community were previously registered only as women or men on the national voters list Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh's neighbours – India, Nepal and Pakistan – have already recognized this community

Transgender people, for the very first time in the country's history, can now be voters as “hijras.”

Previously, they were registered only as women or men on the national voters list — as there was no third option for the people of this community. 

The Election Commission (EC), on the voter registration form, has recently added hijra along with the other two gender categories, male and female.

Five years since the state has recognized hijras as the third gender, the Election Commission—by amending the Voter List Act 2009 and the Voter List Rules 2012—have included this third option alongside male and female, under the gender identity section of the voters list.

According to the commission, they will start updating the voters list on April 23 and the information collection process will continue till the May 13.

Addressing the issues, National Identity Registration Wing Director (Operations) Md Abdul Baten said: "From now onwards, a third gender individual can be a voter with their own identity, as a hijra. 

"The press has already been ordered to print the new forms. Now they can identify themselves as hijras on the national voters list."

Commenting on the matter, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said: "We have added hijra as the third gender option on the voter registration form as per government directives, three days ago."

“When officials go door-to-door, from April 23, in order to collect information and update the present voters list, people of this community will be able to register as hijras on their voter registration form,” he added.

However, when contacted, members of this community expressed that they want the word "transgender" as the third option, not the word hijra.

Transgender individual Ivan Ahmed Katha, president of Socheton Somaj Seba Hijra Songho said: "The initiative that the government has taken is good. We respect our government's decision. 

"However, things need to be clearer regarding this issue.

“Since the international community is not that familiar with the word hijra, it may create problems for us when we  go abroad. We request the government change the word into transgender or third gender since these words are recognized internationally,” she added.

Another transgender individual, Tashnuva Anan, echoed this.

She said: "The word hijra is a local word and the international community is not aware of this. It bears the name of a group, not an individual."

According to the report of Department of Social Services, there are about 10,000 transgender people in Bangladesh. 

Organizations working for them have long been demanding their official recognition as a third gender. 

"Third gender" received state recognition on November 13, 2013. 

Later, on January 26, 2014, the government issued a gazette notification. Then, the Election Commission gave them recognition after amending the law of the voters list.

Bangladesh's neighbours – India, Nepal, and Pakistan – have already recognized this community.