Transgender community struggling to cope with lockdown
Even as the Delhi government has set up over 1,400 food distribution centres across the Capital to provide food to those in need, transgender persons said it was tough for them to access these.Updated: Apr 30, 2020 09:14 IST
When the nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, Namisha, a transwoman, was left with only ₹3,000 in savings, 2kg flour and some pulses. Within a few days, her stocked ration dried up and saving was also exhausted.
The 36-year-old, who would depended on the kindness of strangers in buses at Sarai Kale Khan bus station for her sustenance, now has no one to turn to.
“When I was left with nothing to eat I tried to go out to find food. Police threatened me thinking I was out to beg. I did not even have balance in my phone to call anyone. Then I took the help of a neighbour and called an NGO. They supplied some ration to my house and also provide some money last week. Now I will be able to survive for the next few days,” she said.
Like Namisha, many transgender persons across the national capital have been rendered helpless amid the lockdown. While most of them begged on the city streets, performed in weddings and celebrations, and took to sex work to feed themselves, they are now struggling to cope in the lockdown.
“I could not pay the rent this month for my one-room set in Kalyanpuri. I am just hoping that the landlord doesn’t ask me to leave. Where will I go? My family doesn’t even talk to me,” she said.
Hurdles in getting govt help
Even as the Delhi government has set up over 1,400 food distribution centres across the Capital to provide food to those in need, transgender persons said it was tough for them to access these.
Ramkali, a transwoman associated with Delhi-based NGO Basera Samajik Sangthan, said they receive distress calls from transgender persons every day for ration and food.
“We have also got complaints from many of our sathis (friends) that officials at government food distribution centres mistreated them. People in queues with them passed lewd comments and told them to stay away. The government should make some separate arrangements for the trans community,” she said.
A group of 20 transgender persons living in a slum cluster near Lal Qila also raised the same concerns.
“All of us work in toli (group) and perform at weddings. It’s been over a month now we have not earned a penny. When we were mistreated by those distributing food at the centre near our slum, we did not go there again. Most of us do not have ration cards to get free ration either. We are completely dependent on NGOs and people who come here to distribute food,” said Nimmu, 45, leader of the group.
Amrita Johri of the NGO Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan said that the most pressing concern for these people were the lack of documents.
“Since many of them do not have ration cards and identity cards on their preferred gender choice, they are not being able to get the ration. But now the government is providing ration to those without cards too, we hope the transgender community also get benefited,” she said.
Delhi social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam said that the persons from the transgender community can get the free ration from the fair price shops or distribution centres by just filling the e-coupons and do not need any document for that. “For those who cannot fill e-coupons the government is sending coupons to their houses. The government is providing every possible help to the community without any gender discrimination,” he said.
Several transgender persons said that they are not able to get the monetary help announced by the Central government in view of the lockdown. “The government had announced they would transfer ₹1500 directly to the bank accounts. But none in my group has a bank account. We live on daily wages and don’t use the bank,” said Kajal, 36, who lives in Chandni Chowk.
Health & mental well-being at stake
Simmi, a transwoman, worked in a beauty parlour in Turkman Gate. With services restricted she said that she had no option but to go back to her family when the lockdown was extended on April 14.
“I did not have enough money to survive so I returned to my parent’s house in west Delhi. But, now I am going through mental trauma because my parents and siblings pass comments and taunts on my gender choice the whole day. I don’t know what to do. I feel suffocated,” she said.
Amrita Sarkar, a transgender rights activist from SAATHI NGO, said many trans persons like Simmi are going through similar mental and emotional trauma during the lockdown. “If the person is not getting acceptance and listening comments like why you are like that? They are living in constant mental pressure. Those who are living alone are totally out of money now,” she said.
Sarkar said that they are getting medicine requirements from the transgender persons, many of whom are HIV positive or have recently undergone sex transmission surgery. “Many of them either don’t have money to buy medicines or they are not getting the supply due to the lockdown.
It’s so difficult for them to survive without medicine,” she added.