NEW DELHI, Nov. 7 -- More than 1.2 million eunuchs in India will now be able to cast their votes, an official said Monday. Eunuchs had been fighting for voting rights for more than ten years, a eunuch spokesman said.
'Our organization had been fighting for the rights of eunuchs for over a decade,' Khairati Lal Bhola, president of the All India Hijra Kalyan Sabha, told United Press International. Thanks to a government decision to allow eunuchs to choose their own gender on voting polls, many eunuchs will vote for the first time. 'The majority of us have never exercised our voting right. In my 15 years in Delhi I have never dared approach a polling booth for the fear of being asked awkward question about my gender,' a eunuch said. India's election office has left it to the approximately 5,000 eunuchs in the capital to decide whether they want to be identified as men or women in the voting list. 'I am happy that my efforts have borne fruit. This rule will apply to all Indian eunuchs,' Bhola said. When queried, most eunuchs said they wanted to be identified as women on their identity cards. Eunuchs generally dress and behave like women, wearing saris, dresses, long hair, mascara and lipstick. Some even become prostitutes, Bhola said. Eunuchs held positions of power in India until the 19th century. They served as guardians of royal harems, tutors of concubines, messengers, spies and confidants. With the decline of royal families and the emergence of independent India in 1947, eunuchs were ostracised by the society.