The Hijras have been finally added to the voter list four years after the group received its official recognition. The recognition of Hijras after prolonged campaign by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was acclaimed internationally. It showed the government's respect for the minority community in a conservative society like Bangladesh.
The Election Commi-ssion (EC) has decided to amend the Voter List Act 2009 and the Voter List Regulations 2012 accordingly. Voters will be able to pick the 'Hijra' gender identity alongside the 'male' and 'female' options from the coming update.
Currently, Bangladesh has over 100 million registered voters. National identity cards have been distributed to eligible voters since the start of photo voter list registration. Members of the Hijra (transgender) community were previously able to register, but would be classified as 'male' or 'female' on the list.
On November 13, 2013 a cabinet meeting officially recognized the gender identity of Hijras and approved a policy on the matter. The EC then attempted to add the proposed Hijra option to the 2014 voter registration forms but were unable to do so because there had been no amendment of the Voter List Act and the Voter List Regulations.
The matter was raised during a meeting on amending the regulations at the EC Secretariat on December 27. It was stated at the meeting that a Hijra candidate had run unsuccessfully for the position of councilor in the Rangpur City Corporation by-polls on December 21 and that there was no barrier to the inclusion of Hijras on the voter list.
"However, it is necessary to amend the existing law and regulations to include Hijras as a gender identity alongside men and women on the voter information gathering list," the EC said.
"The commission has made its decision regarding the amendments to the voter list law and regulations," said Khondokar Mizanur Rahman, joint secretary for election management at the EC. "Voters can register as Hijras from the upcoming round of voter information gathering." There are 10,000 listed Hijras living in Bangladesh.
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