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Shabnam Mausi

Shabnam Mausi is the first transgender Indian or hijra to be elected to public office. She was an elected member of the Madhya Pradesh State Legislative Assembly from 1998 to 2003 (Hijras were granted voting rights in 1994 in India). Shabnam Mausi was elected from the Sohagpur constituency in Madhya Pradesh state's Shahdol district.

Shabnam attended two years of primary schooling, but speaks 12 languages that she has learnt during her travels. As a member of the Legislative Assembly her agenda includes fighting corruption, unemployment, poverty, and hunger in her constituency. Shabnam Mausi also intends to use her position in the Legislative Assembly to speak out against discrimination of hijras as well as to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS.

Shabnam Mausi inspired a lot of Hijras in India to take up politics and participate in 'mainstream activities' in India, giving up their traditionally roles as dancers, prostitutes, and beggars, living on the fringes of Indian society. In 2003, Hijras in Madhya Pradesh have announced establishing their own political party called "Jeeti Jitayi Politics" (JJP), which literally means 'politics that has already been won'. The party has also released an eight-page election manifesto which it claims outlines why it is different from mainstream political parties.

In 2005, a fiction feature film titled 'Shabnam Mausi' was made on her life. It was directed by Yogesh Bharadwaj, and the role of Shabnam Mausi was played by Ashutosh Rana. Although she is no longer in public office, Shabnam Mausi continues to participate actively in AIDS/HIV with NGOs and gender activists in India. Image by Kumar/HT