The 21-day lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight the pandemic has put everyone under the fear of the unknown. While all of us are trying to figure out our lives under the lockdown, there are certain communities that no one really cares about. The transgenders.
The lockdown leaves India’s transgender community at heightened risk of poverty and ill health because the community mostly lives on the margins of society, trying to earn their living through sex work and begging.
In an interview to the Deccan Herald Anindya Hajra, a trans woman who works with the Pratyay Gender Trust on transgender livelihood issues, said India’s estimated 2 million trans people would be among those worst hit by the move because many make their living on the streets. As we all know like lakhs of daily wage workers they neither have the option of working from home nor practising social distancing through online means.
The Supreme Court of India, however, in its 2014 ruling had said that the transgenders have equal rights yet the community is denied family support, jobs, education and even healthcare due to the prejudices against them.
Hence, most of the transwomen, known as ‘Hijras’ earn their living by begging at busy intersections and on trains, performing at social functions such as weddings or selling sex. With little savings and social security benefits, many have a massive challenge to deal with the depleting food supplies.
While several state governments have announced relief measures for the marginalised, only the Kerala government till now has allocated temporary housing and food facilities for transgenders in the state.
Considering the majority in the community don’t have government identity cards, a bank account and health insurance it is very unlikely that the community will get these benefits. According to the 2011 Census, over 487,803 lakh transgenders live in the country.
According to National Centre for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Trans adults are also more likely to rate their health as poor or fair in comparison to others. More than 1 out of 5 transgender adults have at least one or more chronic condition, such as diabetes, arthritis or asthma.
With hospitals burdened by the Covid-19 crisis and outpatient departments shut, their hormone therapy requirement has become almost difficult for them which not only causes physiological but psychological damage also.
Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, co-founder of Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti told The News Minute, “We are anyway looked at as a burden when we ask the state to make gender affirming surgeries accessible and ask for it as our right.
Now, with the healthcare workers already so overburdened, if a transgender person wants to have a surgery it will be looked down upon more and will be lower on their priority list,” Another thing is, there’s a strong connection between HIV and sex workers and a lot of transgenders are prone to this virus and HIV-positive trans persons are finding access to life-saving drugs and treatment difficult amid the lockdown.
As of now, the only way of survival for these people is through their savings, which might not be enough for this whole duration. For the worse, there are some isolated citizen-led groups that are aiming at raising money through crowdfunding platforms, sensitising the public about the issues faced by the community and raising money to source basic food provisions.