With cases of rape of minor girls and atrocities on women on a rise in Odisha, 32-year-old Menaka Kinnar, a transgender, contesting the ongoing Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections today pledged to end the menace.
"Protection of girls and women at large is the priority of Odisha Hinjada Mahasangha (OHM). I am contesting the polls to prove that eunuchs can effectively become peoples representatives than their male and female counterparts," Menaka said taking a break from the campaigning.
Clad in a blue saree, Menaka Kinnar goes round the houses in ward number 15 of the BMC area. She is facing stiff opposition from the candidates belonging to BJD, Congress, BJP and Independents. "I am not afraid of this male dominated society. A large number of women and girls are my supporters. Their votes will ensure my victory," Menaka alias Prasant Parida says adding that she receives pat from women and girls. "However, some elements from among the males used to pass comments to me and my sisters when we go on campaigning," she said.
Just a matriculate, Menaka, a native of Jagatsinghpur district, claims she understands the plight of women and girls. "Unless women are empowered, this society cannot improve. I want to give a message through this elections that eunuchs are not less than any male," she says.
While Menaka and some others from her community is busy in election campaigning, her friends go to places across the state and beg money to fund elections. "There are 19,000 eunuchs across the state and all of them are working. They contribute to Menaka's elections," said Pratap Sahu, president of Odisha Hinjada Mahasangha.
Sahu, however, has a complaint against the State Election Commission (SEC) which rejected nomination of Madhuri Kinnar, another eunuch who filed papers to contest from ward number 30. "We will take the matter to the High Court against the SEC's decision," Sahu said.
The SEC had rejected the candidature of Kinnar, who had filed nomination as independent candidate from a ward reserved for women even as it upheld that of another, who had filed nomination from an unreserved ward.
Kinnar was denied the opportunity during scrutiny on the ground that transgenders are not qualified to file nomination from seats reserved for women candidates. "Why wards or seats can't be reserved for them when the Election Commission of India has issued identity cards to them in the 'other sex' category," asks Sahu. "Transgenders have been allowed to contest elections in some other states," Sahu said.
As per the Navin Chawla Committee Report, 1991, there are three columns - M (Male) and F (Female) and O (Others) - in the nomination papers and eunuchs are usually clubbed in the O category.