Written by Ashish Narayan of Law College, Dehradun.
Edited by Ishita Mangla.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected approximately every person in the entire world which may be through the virus or the mental pressure because of lockdown. People including migrant workers, labourers, corporate job-holders and others are facing many problems due to this pandemic. In all of this, the communities which are already struggling due to the social stigma like the transgender community is facing huge livelihood problems. Although, recently in India, the act for the protection of transgender persons was enacted but remain under the cover. During the lockdown period, the government has a responsibility to tackle the issues of the worst affected communities. Thus, it has been seen that the transgender community has been marginalized throughout, and the COVID-19 pandemic further adds salt on their wounds.
The transgender community is heterogeneous in which there are different concerns for different people. The Transgender persons involved in begging and illicit prostitution are the worst affected because the lockdown period has stopped people from going out and these people don’t have any other livelihood just to stay in small houses which are not even safe for them. Earlier in Hyderabad, transphobic posters were found at a Metro station saying, if you talk to transgender, you will get corona, throwing light on the prevailing problems of social stigma. The author brings out the hardships of transgender persons in India and other parts of the world during the on-going pandemic.
CONDITIONS OF TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN INDIA:
With a general lack of healthcare support and awareness, there is a looming fear in the transgender community about the potential impact of coronavirus on those who are HIV positive. Although, there is little clarity on whether those living with HIV are at high risk to COVID- 19. According to the UNAIDS estimate, around 68% of transgender people living with HIV are aware of their status, making them vulnerable to fear and stress. While several members of the “Hijra” community have support in community households and gurus to help with food supplies, trans-men are scattered in the city. Most trans-men are either living with their partners or alone and not being able to be in touch with the community.
Transgender and non-binary persons living with hostile families under the lockdown have to deal with stress and trauma, especially those who have recently undergone sex-reassignment surgery or are taking hormones. Chemists might run out of their medication or may not stock it due to the lockdown. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, they found solidarity in members of the queer community, with whom they spent most of their time. Lack of access to therapy due to the lockdown, the transgender community is also battling discrimination, phobia and stigma in healthcare, on with a lack of adequate documentation or identity proof to avail benefits. India currently has around 4.8 lacs, transgender people, as per the 2011 census data, of whom only around 10% have a voter ID. On an average day before the lockdown, they would make anything between ₹500 and ₹1000 daily. But the nationwide lockdown, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, has left her and several other transgender persons struggling to sustain and survive.
When it comes to an outbreak like situation in terms of coronavirus, when many patients are competing for limited healthcare resources, then naturally, one of the groups that get the least priority, in terms of access and availability of healthcare facilities, would be the transgender groups. Transgender lives are more at risk due to COVID- 19 because most transgender persons have lower levels of immunity. Particularly, spelling about the effect of coronavirus infection on the transgender person, we need to understand that a lot of transgender persons are having a lower level of health as compared to the general population because of the neglect to their own physical and mental health.
Every life is important whether it is male, female, transgender or any other human being. One transgender posted a post on Facebook that I had no food to eat during that lockdown. When Reena Rai saw that message she shocked and she decided to do something for them. She decided to help transgender people during that lockdown. Also, her husband supported that decision. Also, many other NGOs helped the transgender during that lockdown. But in some places, there was no help coming from either government or any NGO.
The entire community faces discrimination when it comes to a basic healthcare facility which only gets worse during a pandemic. If in the separation wards they have the male-female binaries and there is no centre for trans-women or trans-men, then it becomes extremely difficult to access that kind of healthcare. Many transgender people die from this sheer delay. We can help by building awareness regarding the education of the less privileged transgender persons and everyone else for recognising the conditions which are facing in our country. Comparing the situation, transgender people abroad still have a health facility. But, if we look in India, poverty and social stigma makes the situation of transgender people worse here. The Indian government should make the healthcare system far more inclusive, friendly and, at this point, make all the required information accessible in multiple languages. If these testing centres openly declare themselves as trans-friendly, then, it is going to make a lot of difference for the transgender community as a whole. Thus, it could somehow help in reducing a certain percentage of social stigma.
- Kennith Rosari, COVID-19 lockdown: transgender community pushed further to the margin  Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/covid-19-lockdown-transgender-community-pushed-further-to-the-margin/article31265535.ece.
- Mythreyee Ramesh, ‘Discriminated, Worried’: India’s Trans-persons on COVID-19 Crisis  Available at: https://www.thequint.com/amp/story/neon/gender/coronavirus-transgender-community-impact.
- Sonal Rawat, COVID-19 and the Transgender Community in India  Available at: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/06/sonal-rawat-trans-rights-covid19/#.
Image Courtesy- The Hindu