Thanks to social prejudice, transgenders are a neglected lot
As the world fights corona virus, the survival of India’s transgender community is at stake. Most transgenders are daily earners who beg, do sex work or collect alms during weddings and child birth. The lockdown has left them with no option to eke a living.
“While other daily wage earners have some social network, this is an isolated and a highly ostracized community. They don’t have a family to look after them. Many transgender don’t have Adhar card or rashan card etc to avail relief measures. They are a scattered community which makes their situation alarming,” says transgender activist Rudrani Chhetri.
Chhetri says that Delhi despite being the Capital, doesn’t have a transgender welfare board. “The government recently passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. It ensures the community equal right to healthcare and welfare measures. But there’s no single window to take this up,” she adds.
Many transgenders are facing starvation. Shaina, a 19-year-old transgender from Janakpuri says, “We are going without food. We have no bank account and no savings. We see people distributing rashan but no one comes to us. Even our neighbours act as if we don’t exist”. Her roommate Ria, 34, says she can’t step out to get medicines. “We are scared of the police. Yesterday, we went to buy milk and policemen addressed us in a vulgar manner. There are HIV positive patients in our group who need medicines but we can’t go out as there’s no conveyance and no clarity on curfew passes. Police will beat us if we walk to the hospital,” she says.
Karishma, 35, another transgender who volunteers with an NGO, says it will be challenging to ensure that help reaches all. “There’s no updated data on the community. As per the last census (2011), there were 4.88 lakh transgenders in India. No recent survey has been done. It’s going to be tough to reach out to them.”
Dhananjay Chauhan, a transgender activist from Chandigarh says that those living in the deras following hijra culture still have some resources, but transgenders living on their own are facing hell. “We got rashan and vegetables from the Lalit Hotel, but it finished soon as there are so many in need.”
Shashi Bhushan, LGBTQ activist says that the neglect that transgenders are facing is due to transprejudice that runs deeps in the society. “Transgenders are still considered untouchable. Their lives do no matter. NGOs must come forward now. They too are human beings and they will soon be dying,” he says.
However, Veerendra Mishra, director, National Institute of Social Defence, a central advisory body for Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment says that the government has put together an immediate relief plan to help transgenders in this time of distress. Offcials are working round the clock to ensure its success. “We are releasing ₹1500 each in the accounts of 1000 transgenders across India. 3000 more people have sent us their details and we will sending them relief after verifications . Relief is being provided by National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC), a corporation under the Ministry. R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is personally monitoring this,” he says. R. Subrahmanyam also tweeted about the same, assuring that those at the verge of starvation will get immediate relief.