The trans community may have won their right to vote in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the government decided to incorporate the ‘third gender’ or ‘others’ option on their voter ID-cards.
A mass bunking protest by the entire community during the 2009 elections forced the Election Commission to meet their demand in the following general election of 2013.
This time, though there was no mass protest, one Puducherry transsexual individual’s relentless battle successfully pushed the Income Tax department to include the third gender option on its official portal (https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in.) while filing income tax returns online.
And so, no more will transsexual individuals be forced to choose between male and female while filing their income tax returns online, thanks to Dr Sameera Mahamud Jahagirdar.
Also, in addition, the third gender will also be exempted from the Union government’s rule of linking their PAN with their Aadhaar while filing their returns.
Sameera, who works at Mahatma Gandhi medical college and research institute in Puducherry, as a consultant in critical care medicine changed her official identity from male to transsexual following all prescribed legal processes.
But despite that, Sameera could not link the PAN with Aadhaar as the gender mentioned in PAN was ‘male’ and the one in Aadhaar mentioned ‘transgender.’
A long struggle to get the gender changed on PAN ensued due to Sameera’s refusal to be labelled male or female. But nothing happened.
It was at the time Sameera also realised that the online income tax return filing portal also did not have ‘transgender’ as the third gender option.
Sameera filed petitions for inclusion of the option but to no avail, until she approached the principal commissioner of income tax (Puducherry) Jahanzeb Akhtar.
It wasn’t long enough until the principal commissioner escalated the matter to the systems directorate of the department.
The directorate was quick to respond and made the required changes to the e-filing portal and included the third gender option while filing IT returns.
Sameera was also given an exemption from linking PAN to Aadhaar until the department incorporates ‘transgender’ identity in PAN reported the Times of India.
Speaking to the publication, a top income tax official said the Union government has initiated efforts to include ‘transgender’ option in PAN and until then they can seek an exemption to link their PAN with Aadhaar to file returns online as ‘third gender.’
While there is still a long way to go, this is definitely is one step forward for the approximate five lakh transsexuals in the country (2011 census) who struggle day in and day out for multiple processes including getting loans because two or more government documents list different gender identities.
(Edited Vinayak Hegde)