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India elects first transgender mayor

AFP , Monday 5 Jan 2015
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A low-caste transgender in central India has become the country's first to win civic polls and be declared mayor.

Madhu Bai Kinnar won the municipal election in Raigarh in the central state of Chhattisgarh Sunday, beating her rival from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by more than 4,500 votes, according to the state election commission.

Video footage showed the 35-year-old Kinnar draped in a saree, folding her hands and greeting supporters who placed marigold garlands around her neck amid a blaze of camera flashes.

Kinnar, a member of the Dalit caste previously known as "untouchables", had been earning a living by singing and dancing on trains, the Press Trust of India reported, but she stopped when asked to represent her community.

"People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I'll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams," Kinnar told reporters after winning the election.

Kinnar's win comes nine months after India's top court ruled that transgenders be legally recognised as gender-neutral.

Often known as "hijras" in South Asia, transgenders are classified as people who have had sex change operations or who regard themselves as the opposite of their born gender.

They often live on the extreme fringes of India's culturally conservative society, sometimes falling into prostitution and begging.

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