By Kshitij Gautam

        “As the world comes together, India’s transgender community fights COVID-19 alone

                                                                                                            Amnesty International

Since the lockdown started nearly all the general public is worried about their livelihood, for future and life. Most of the people were started living on their savings or started working from home, but there was one section of the society who didn’t have enough savings to survive in this period and also can’t work from home because primarily their work involved going home to home. There are about 1 million eunuchs in India and before 2014 landmark judgment there were deprived of various human rights including the right to marry, right to vote, right to hold ration card, etc. However, now the government of India recognized the third gender but there are still many rights which went untouched for these people.

Brief History of the eunuchs-

Even though the government took many years to recognized the fact that there are third genders in the country, but then there is no iota of doubts that these people belong to India from the same date when the life found in this country. In one of the popular epic named Ramayana, when Lord Ram along with his wife Sita and Lakshman went to the 14 years exile, all the people of the Ayodhya went to see of him at the end of the city, where Lord Ram told them ‘all the men and women please go back to their respective place from here’ but the eunuchs who also went to see off them waited for whole 14 years because they are neither included in men nor women.[1] The purpose of this story is to tell that eunuchs are not strange people; they also have history same as we have. But after the British came in India, according to them the transgenders are cross-dressed, beggars and un-natural prostitutes.[2] One of the sources tells that eunuchs were the opprobrium upon colonial rule.[3] After the independence of India, it took more than 65 years to get legal rights and recognized as a third gender in the country after the landmark judgment of NALAS v. Union of India[4]. According to Justice KS Radhakrishnan, “Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue”.[5]

The plight of Transgender during COVID-19

It will be the wrong statement if we say that in the COVID, the problems of transgender increases or they suffer more plight than others because they always in problems due to discrimination despite legal recognition and poverty.[6] However, there is no iota of doubts that their life is miserable in the time of the lockdown. In the lockdown when the media is showing migrant labours because of their migration, which is obvious but it is also strange that not a single Programme on the transgender and their problem.[7] Neither media shows anything nor Center/ state government put any effort for them except the Kerala government.

The primary problems faced by the transgenders during lockdown are same as any other person who earns their livelihood on daily basis. But the only problem with the transgender is they have to suffer more because of their gender or sexual preference. Most of the transgenders in India belongs to the profession where they go to home to home in any occasion like marriage or the birth of the child, but due to lockdown, this activity stops because of the airborne disease. Their condition is worse from the labours, because of the superstition that they are bad peoples and one of the prime examples for that is at the Hyderabad railway station there was a poster state that- “If you talk to transgenders, you will get the Corona”.[8]  This type of posters is making their life more difficult to live as they have a habit of social interaction but because of this statement and the lockdown, they didn’t talk to anyone. In Pre-COVID they earn approximately 200-300 per day but due to stoppage of movement this can’t be done and there is no doubt that lockdown is also necessary but not at the cost of the basic human rights given to them. [9]

According to the report, almost 70% of the transgender is having the HIV-AIDS, so this make them more vulnerable in this epidemic because their immune system is weak to handle the virus, this makes them one of the top priorities for the government but what we see is otherwise.[10] Most of the time they didn’t know about their diseases; this makes their cases more miserable.  And what is more surprising is that after more than 70 years of independence and almost 6 years of getting the legal recognition from the apex court, there is no ward for them in hospital.[11] Most of the times hospital authority seemed perplexed as to in which ward, they admit the transgender. This is not shaming for transgenders, but this is one of the clots on the fastest developing nation. It’s not that in the COVID-19, transgender has to suffer so much, they are used to it, even in their home they have to face discrimination from their parents.[12]

A way forward to ‘new’ normal

  • AIIMS Director said that in the year 2022, the vaccine can be available to the general public in India, there is no relief from the COVID-19 till then. So, by upholding this statement the situation of transgenders is also not getting easy, now Government should announce incentives like campaigning to aware the community about depression as they are likely to hit by the COVID or depression.
  • It is not an easy task to curb discrimination in one go, but the government should take responsibilities to teach the public about the transgender more likely to the upcoming generations. And this should be done by the parents/ guardians also at their home.
  • Since this COVID not only hit them mentally but also economically, so government should try to compensate them directly in the bank account (DBT) as they are more likely independent and because of their sexuality relatives also doesn’t support them. (Except Kerala no other state is doing this).
  • The government should try to make a separate ward for transgender in the Government-funded hospital and announce some special recognition to the privately funded hospital who makes the separate ward for them.
  • The government should contact the well-established member of the community and asked them to help these people by telling them their respective theory as no one inspire them like their own people.

[1]ARUNDHATI ROY, MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS 51, (Hamish Hamilton 2017).

[2]Soutik Biswas, How Britain tried to ‘erase’ India’s third gender, BBC, (Oct. 27,2020, 9:27 PM), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48442934.

[3]Ibid.

[4] NALAS v. Union of India, AIR 2014 SC 1863.

[5]Terrence McCoy, India now recognizes transgender citizens as ‘third gender’, WASHINGTON POST, (Oct.28, 2020, 5:20 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/04/15/india-now-recognizes-transgender-citizens-as-third-gender/.

[6] Divya Trivedi, COVID-19 and the plight of the transgender community, FRONTLINE, (Oct.28, 2020, 6:30 PM), https://frontline.thehindu.com/dispatches/article31463945.ece.

[7] DECCAN HERALD, https://www.deccanherald.com/national/indias-transgender-community-struggles-as-coronavirus-shuts-life-down-817394.html, (Last visited on Nov.1, 2020).

[8] Donita Jose, Transgenders shocked by hate posters in Hyderabad amid coronavirus fear, THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS, (Nov.1 ,2020, 5:00 PM), https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2020/mar/30/transgenders-shocked-by-hate-posters-in-hyderabad-amid-coronavirus-fear-2123284.html.

[9] Sugyanta Priyadarshini, & Sukanta Chandra Swain, Impact of COVID-19 on the Socioeconomic life and Psychology of Transgenders: Insights from India, 11 IJRPS 126, 128 (2020).

[10] Bithika Mondal, Sudeshna Das, Deepshikha Ray and Debanjan Banerjee, The Untold Side of COVID-19”: Struggle and Perspectives of the Sexual Minorities, 2 JPS 1 (2020).

[11] Kennith Rosario, COVID-19 lockdown: transgender community pushed further to the margin, THE HINDU, (Nov.5, 2020,12:20PM), https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/covid-19-lockdown-transgender-community-pushed-further-to-the-margin/article31265535.ece.

[12] Shawn Sebastian, COVID-19: What about the transgender community? DOWN TO EARTH, (Nov.5, 2020, 1:10 PM), https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/covid-19-what-about-the-transgender-community—70151.

Savaging the Civilized: Dilemma of Transgenders during COVID-19

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