Bombay High Court Allows Trans Woman To Contest On Women’s Seats

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In a landmark ruling, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court has allowed Anjali Guru Sanjana Jaan, a trans woman, to contest in the village elections under the women’s category. Noting that a transgender person has the right to choose their self-perceived gender identity, the high court has recognised her right to contest on women’s seats.

Anjali’s nomination for the Gram Panchayat polls in Jalgaon as a woman candidate had been rejected by the returning officer for the village on the grounds that she was a trans woman, and didn’t qualify.

She subsequently filed a petition against the returning officer’s decision in the court, and the bench, headed by Justice Ravindra Ghuge allowed the plea.

The High Court Noted That Transgender Persons Have A Right To Their Self-Perceived Gender Identity.

The high court observed that under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, a transgender person has the right to be recognized, and additionally, a right to their self-perceived gender identity.

The bench remarked, “In the present case, the petitioner has opted for the female gender as her self-perceived gender identity and makes a solemn statement, which is recorded as the statement made to the Court, that henceforth in her lifetime she would not switch over to the male gender driven by opportunism and would continue to opt for the female gender, in future, save and except if there is a reservation provided for transgender in public life.”

Anjali’s counsel asserted that she, the petitioner, has selected the female gender for all purposes in the past, and would not switch over to the male gender in the future, under any circumstances.

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Before passing its order, the bench observed that it was “quite apparent” that the returning officer was ignorant of the law, when rejecting Anjali’s nomination form. The court noted that the other contesting candidates had no objection to her nomination, and only the returning officer felt it right to disqualify her from the women’s category.

Finally, quashing the returning officer’s order, and allowing Anjali’s petition, the court accepted her nomination form, allowing her to contest under her chosen gender category.

The Court’s Verdict, Despite Raising A Few Questions, Is A Landmark One

The Court’s decision marks a historical shift in the judicial recognition given to trangender persons.

While the decision is being celebrated, the court’s statement, requiring Anjali to state that she “would not switch” her gender, and would “continue to opt for the female gender, in future, save and except if there is a reservation provided for transgender in public life”, has raised questions about if trans women will not be allowed to contest on women’s seats if reservation for transgender persons is introduced, and if genderfluid, nonbinary, or non-conforming individuals are exempt from their right to self-perceived gender identity.

However, the discrepancies do not take away from the fact that the decision is a great step forward in recognizing trans people’s rights and asserting their belonging in every space – including important ones. It encourages the possibility and need for more inclusivity at work and leadership positions

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Sanjana writes far too little to call herself a writer and reads far too much pop-culture fiction to call herself a reader. She once received a Special Mention for the Best Young Critic Award by MAMI, and refuses to stop talking about it. Her love for films, art, and theatre runs deep and is only borderline pretentious. She detests writing in third person but can be convinced to engage in it occasionally.

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