In a big win for transgender acceptance in India, Riya Sarkar became the first transgender to preside over a polling booth.
As the fifth phase of polling began in West Bengal’s Assembly Elections on the 30th of April, one presiding officer in South Kolkata’s Rashbehari Constituency quietly made history.
Riya Sarkar, a school teacher, became the first transgender person in India to preside over a polling booth.
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Sarkar, who was all set to supervise activity at booth number 260 in South City International School, said “It is a big honour not only for me but for the entire transgender community. I am very happy and proud on being given this task by the Election Commission.”
Born as Pankaj Sarkar, Riya went in for a sex realignment surgery in 2014. Today, Riya teaches history at Dum Dum Prachaya Bani Mandi School.
Like other presiding officers, Sarkar too has received training on how to handle the booth and tackle any challenges that arise.
“All my life, people have made fun of me. Now, I am confident enough to assert myself,” she said.
Sarkar has Smita Pandey, the District Electoral Officer, Kolkata South to thank for helping her make history. “She said I had to do this for my community. She felt if more transwomen like me come forward, there will be more acceptance,” Sarkar said.
Speaking of her decision, Pandey said “It’s just that they’re not getting enough opportunities. This inclusion in polling process will be a part of their social engineering experience.”
One thing is for certain, in this election – it is the transgender community that has won.
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