Sunday, April 19, 2009, Rabi-us-Sani 22, 1430 A.H  
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 India's eunuchs avoid polls over 'third sex' dilemma
 Updated at: 0933 PST,  Sunday, April 19, 2009
 NEW DELHI: India's one million eunuchs face a unique dilemma every election season -- do they stand in the men's or women's queue at polling stations or stay away altogether?

In the past, eunuchs -- the term used for cross-dressers, pre- and post-operative transsexuals known here as hijras -- have largely abstained from casting their ballots because they are unwilling to identify themselves as male or female on voter registration forms. While some eunuchs do vote by listing themselves as female, many are pushing for an alternative or "third sex" option on identity cards, after being granted the franchise in 1994.

They can now write "E" for eunuch on passports and on certain government forms, but the quest for acceptance at the ballot box -- where they have to identify themselves as male or female -- still eludes them in culturally conservative India.

Last month India's election commission denied three eunuchs in the eastern state of Orissa permission to run as candidates unless they identified themselves as male or female. Pratap Sahu, president of the All-Orissa Eunuchs Association, which fielded the candidates, said the unsuccessful bid had been a form of protest against election authorities. "We wanted to fight the election on the third sex issue. In India nobody has fought for this," he said.

Month-long general elections in the world's largest democracy began on Thursday, with the last of five phases taking place on May 13. Results are expected May 16.

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