Activists seek easier access to vaccines for transgenders, sex workers
Several activists and NGOs have demanded easier access to vaccines in “community friendly settings” and assistance in booking slots working for transgender persons and sex workers in the Capital.
“Most of the transgender persons are severely hit by the pandemic. They have literally no money left for survival and on top of that, now they have no avenue to get vaccinated. Many are not comfortable visiting the usual vaccination centres because of social ostracisation. My partner has failed to get a slot till date. We know there’s a shortage of vaccines, but even those who are above 45 years in our community are finding it difficult to book slots. Some of them do not have Aadhaar cards, they need a helping hand and the government should come forward,” said Amrita Sarkar, advisor, transgender wellbeing and advocacy at India HIV/AIDS Alliance.
They also pointed out that many in these communities are already suffering from HIV, complications fromsex reassignment surgery and hormone intake, and drug addiction, making them vulnerable to Covid-19. Delhi had at least 55,633 female sex workers and 9,496 transgender persons, who are covered as “High Risk Groups” under the National AIDS Control Programme of the Union ministry of health and family welfare.
The All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), a collective of 5 million sex workers in India, last week wrote to the Delhi government demanding better access to vaccines for the people of these communities.
“The community of sex workers and transgender/hijra persons are not only at high risk of Covid-19 infection, but are also vulnerable on account of their socio-economic status, the stigma, discrimination and exclusion that they face in society, as well as a lack of information, services, resources and support. Lack of identity documents, including documents with date of birth, residence proof and self-identified gender identity is another barrier in accessing services such as Covid-19 vaccination,” the AINSW said in its note to the Delhi government.
The AINSW urged the Delhi government to deploy volunteers and healthcare workers to register and vaccinate sex workers and transgender persons in community friendly settings. To address vaccine hesitancy, which is high among these communities, it sought dedicated awareness programmes to address myths and misconceptions.
A Delhi government spokesperson said a special vaccination drive for such communities is under active consideration. “This is under consideration. Once we have sufficient vaccination, we will vaccinate each and every citizen of Delhi,” the spokesperson said.
Dr. Rashmi Singh, director of Delhi government’s department of women and child development (WCD) said, “It does not necessarily need a specific government order to implement this. Each district has a district task force which can on its own take such initiatives. But yes, as of now, there are no such drives or vaccination centre for transgender persons and sex workers.”