The West Bengal assembly polls are special this year, especially for the third gender community, as for the first time one of them has been made presiding officer for a booth in South Kolkata. Smita Pandey, district electoral officer, Kolkata South, told PTI that “We are calling it the transgender booth because Riya Sarkar, a transgender, will be the presiding officer. She will now be part of history of the inclusion of the transgender community into the mainstream society.” Sarkar was posted at one of the booths at South City International School which falls in Rashbehari assembly constituency. She was born as Pankaj Sarkar and went for a sex realignment surgery in 2014 to became Riya Sarkar.
On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court of India recognized a third gender that is neither male nor female, and as a class entitled to reservation in education and jobs, stating “Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue.”
The transgender community in the world, and especially in India, is a socially stigmatized one. In spite of this, there are several success stories in our country, of transgenders reaching great heights.
- Manabi Bandopadhyay: India’s first transwoman college principal
- Padmini Prakash: India’s first transgender television anchor
- Kamla Jaan: The first woman transgender mayor
- Shabnam Mausi: India’s first eunuch to become an MLA
- Kalki Subramaniam: India’s first transgender entrepreneur
- Lakshmi: Transgender right activist
Riya Sarkar being appointed as the presiding officer, is a news of great pride and joy for the country, as it is symbolic of the transgender community being given proper respect and status in society. This should serve as a precedent to all members of society, to not adhere to archaic norms and celebrate their existence and potential for the betterment of society.
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