The number of coronavirus cases in India has jumped over 3,313 (as of 4th April 2020), at least 1,023 confirmed cases have been reported from 17 states related to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin area. During this pandemic outbreak, It is very important for the trans community in India to be prepared for a plan of action that takes into basic health needs as they stay in groups and they have more public interactions. Otherwise, India’s estimated 2 million trans people would be worst hit by the disease because many make their living on the streets. Transgender communities in India have a lot of questions about how they can properly face the pandemic as the number of COVID-19 cases in India increases day by day.
In this situation they need support from the government and society in order to stay safe both from the virus and the discrimination was thrown against them by society. NGO’s working for the welfare of this community and the Government or local bodies should identify the trans communities that are staying in groups and facilitate food and medicines until the corona threat persists. Recently some hate posters were pasted on the walls of various places in Hyderabad warning that those who speak to transgender persons will fall victim to COVID-19. This has shocked the Transgender community who called this as highly discriminatory and hateful. These hatemongers poison other people’s minds by spreading fake information which again attacks the trans people. The Lock-down leaves these people to a risk of poverty because most of them earn through begging, prostitution and auspicious ceremonies, which have stopped now. They have little savings and hardly any social security benefits. So many have a massive challenge to deal with in this crisis.
The center and various state governments have announced relief packages for the laborers and poor, but nothing has been provided for the Transgender community yet. No one has raised this issue. In 2019, the Government passed a bill to protect Transgender Indians from discrimination in education, employment, healthcare, and housing. This bill faced a lot of criticism from the Trans community and it was brushed under the carpet due to CAA & NRC. Though the Supreme court of India in 2014 declared transgender as the “Third Gender” in India in theory, these communities have still not been accepted practically by society. They are still waiting for change but the change seems too far out of reach. They are unlikely to be benefited by the government as the majority of the trans people don’t have access to Adhar cards, ration cards, PAN card or other identity documents.
Let’s know why trans people are at risk of COVID-19
- Higher rates of HIV and cancer patients are in the trans community so they have weak immune systems according to the National Centre for Transgender Equality (NCTE). Coronavirus easily attacks people with weak immune systems. Globally trans people are five times more likely to be living with HIV compared to the general population.
- More tobacco users are in the trans community at a rate of 50% higher than the general population. The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that could be especially harmful to smokers.
- More than 1 out of 5 transgender adults have at least one or more chronic disease conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, or asthma. Therefore they are at a greater risk of infection.
- Fear of discrimination keeps them from seeking medical aid if symptoms are there.
- They are at higher risk of spreading the disease as they live in congested areas (where isolation is impossible) which are likely to be COVID-19 hot spots.
As the COVID-19 cases in the country are on the rise, appropriate measures should be taken by the government to check for any possible infection among trans people. The Government should arrange for awareness programs specifically for the trans community and provide them with the required medical aid and healthcare as well.