As we humans have seen enough fatality during the coronavirus pandemic, and this crisis reminds us of our collective responsibility towards the marginalised community, so we should understand the pain, which LGBT people go through and not deny them right to life.
AKSHITA PARIHAR, 29 August, 2020, 10:30 PM IST
Everything was going normal, then this coronavirus struck and we all went on lockdown. This pandemic has hit the world at large and for this many preventive measureswere taken by the countries. In India on March 25, Prime Minister of India has announced 21 days’ nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and this nationwide lockdown has become the reason for disconcertment for any daily wage earner in the India right now. The situation however, is grimmer as far as the lives of numerous transgender people are concerned as their only source of livelihood is from regular jobs. Even before this pandemic there was already a significant level of economic, social, moral as well as mental instability and high rates of stigmatization with them and this pandemic has just added fuel to an already burning community. They seem to be at a greater health risk, and no access to food, ration facilitiesand health facilities.
PRACTISING SOCIAL DISTANCING BEFORE COVID-19
Homosexuality was legalized in India by the Supreme Court of India in September 2018. The five judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that consensual homosexual acts would no longer constitute a crime and the change was welcomed by Indians and global LGBT+ communities as a step towards acceptance and equal rights, but almost two years after the passing of this law, what is the status of LGBT+ rights in India?
India currently has around 4.8 lakh transgender, and as per the 2011 censusit is quite evident that they are in minority hence they are not given much importance.
Right now world is trying to win the battle with isolation and social distancing, these words ‘isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ could be a new vocabulary for us, but the meaning of it had been felt and imbibed in every trans person’smind and soul. The society has always been maintaining a social as well as physical distance with this community for a long time. On any normal day, this would not have mattered much to the community, but in these helpless times, as the virus tightens its grip each passing day, the actual distance between the society and the community widens further.
CHALLENGES FACED DURING LOCKDOWN
- Social distancing and use of personal protective measure is one of the two key measures in defeating COVID-19, but this is not possible in a small house where they cannot even afford to have a separate room.
- Person suffering from any chronic disease are more prone to COVID-19 and in trans person’s more than 1 out of 5 transgender adults have at least one or more chronic condition, such as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, HIV and cancer.
- Higher rate of anxiety, depression and poor mental or physical health cause extended use of substance abuse, smoking, drinking, self-harm, eating disorder and suicidal tendencies in their community and LGBT people use tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population, which only made them more vulnerable to the disease since COVID-19 affects respiratory system and weakening immune system.
- The world health organization and European commission in their guidelines on essential services includes medications to the LGBT people, but still LGBT people continue to experience discrimination from providers and staff in many health care centres. Dr. Michael Brady, National Advisor for LGBT health quotes: “wherever the question is asked, LGBT community experience poorer outcomes in healthcare”.
- Out of 4.8 lakh transgender people only 10% have a voter ID and2500-3000 trans people have necessary documents, as most of the LGBT people are uneducated as their family disowned them or they quit school due to social stigma, and thus lack proper documents which make their access to benefits more problematic.
COVID-19 is challenging the very foundation of the public health system and this community is already out of the system due to the stigma and prejudice. Most of the members are already in a compromised state of health. Given the present scenario and the relief packages announced by the centres and the state governments to the distressed sections of the population, the transgender community willremain the worst hit. Since the community was never recognized it is difficult to estimate the total number of people entitled to get the relief under the various scheme of the government.There are some without ID card, others without any card under public distribution scheme and rest without many documents at all. These marginalized communities are being excluded from relief program and are further pushed into indigence. The only way to cater to them is to go through the local community-based organization in districts and various NGOs, which are relentlessly working for them. But their resources are drying up as well. So the future of these communities is in distant villages, where aids may never reach.
UPLIFTMENT OF LGBT COMMUNITY
LGBT community have to face discrimination everywhere, and we can’t expect the old biases to automatically be wiped off. And during this bad time we need to break the stigma attached with the LGBT community and lend a helping hand to them at this hour of crisis: –
- Swati bidhant the first trans judge in Assam, along with an NGO called All Assam Transgender Association, has started a fundraising campaign for trans persons to ensure that they are able to access supplies of basic food and ration. Assam government has also provided free rations to four transgender people in laxmipur district.
- As several state governments announced relief measures for the marginalised, only the Kerala government doled out temporary housing and food facilities for transgender in the state.
- In Hyderabad MIST organisation helping LGBT community, it is helping 100 members of the trans community with food essentials that cost Rs. 1000 each and also emphasised on the need to provide thecommunity members with ration cards and IDs.
- To help rural transgender from Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, another crowdfunding platform was launched at fundraising platform Milaap. It has waived fee for severalcampaigns to raise funds for Covid-19 related causes. The campaign aims to support 150 people from the community.
- In collaboration with Milaap, another campaign from Chennai began the crowdfunding campaign with an initial plan to support 100 people. They have now extended it to support 200 more people from the city adjacent districts. The collective is aimed at facilitating bank transfer for beneficiaries.
The entire world is crippled by the coronavirus and our focus right now is on fighting with the pandemic. But the recovery will not be effective or complete if we forgot our most vulnerable communities. As the whole world is grappling with fear of the novel coronavirus, this community is once again, facing a humanitarian crisis. People think that they are ‘dirty’ and are more prone to getting contaminated with viruses, and maintain an extra distance from them. Right now it is more important to consider LGBT communities in this hour of crisis for two main reason: firstly, there are several factors which may make LGBT people more at risk of contracting the virus and secondly, because of the inequalities faced by these communities they are denied the basic healthcare facilities.
But how and when are the members of this community getting tested for coronavirus? What is the number that needs to be tested? Well, finding an answer would not be an easy task. The problem is so deep rooted that solutions are probably more distant than the discovery of vaccines for the coronavirus. But the good news is that this crisis came at the time when the transgender community has seen increasing support for basic human rights. As we humans have seen enough fatality during the coronavirus pandemic, and this crisis reminds us of our collective responsibility towards the marginalised community, so we should understand the pain, which LGBT people go through and not deny them right to life.