Immunocompromised & Othered: Trans Community Battles Lockdown

The transgender community is at particular risk of COVID-19 as they are often immunocompromised. 

Updated
Coronavirus
3 min read
The transgender community is at particular risk of COVID-19 as they are often immunocompromised. 
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From economically weaker migrants to women and children susceptible to violence, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the existing inequalities in our systems.

Trans people in India have historically been stigmatised, othered and denied basic rights - even their right to self-identity is in question.

FIT previously reported on the hurdles trans people face in accessing healthcare and the resulting poor levels of health among the community.

The trans community is doubly at risk. First, many are immunocompromised or HIV positive and therefore extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, and second, they face many social barriers like stigma and poor access to healthcare or essentials. Plus, many from the community often lack the required government ID to access rations and welfare schemes, and with the loss in their livelihood due to the lockdown - every day becomes a struggle.

To fill the gaps and reach out, civil society organisations have called for donations to the often ignored community. Amnesty India appealed to state governments to include them in their relief plans.

Political Support for Trans Aid

Vidya Chavan of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) highlighted a crisis call from the community on Tuesday, April 14, where around 40-50 transgender people from Malwani, Maharashtra needed essentials.

Activist circles were shortly mobilised and one group - Pink List India- coordinated with the government to deliver aid to the NGO Triveni Samajh Vikas Kendra within 24 hours.

Pink List India’s QUEERelief project has been highlighting NGOs like the All Assam Transgender Association and Sangama in West Bengal working towards providing immediate relief for the queer community across the country.

The team liaised with NCP's Supriya Sule and Vidya Chavan who facilitated transport and financing the rations for the trans people.

FIT spoke to the NGOs representative, social worker Altaf Shaikh who said that she got in touch with her activist network to try and mobilise rations.

“Many of my sisters are HIV positive or have tuberculosis, I am managing their medications with my social worker essential travel pass but we needed a way to get rations. I was able to get in tough with Supriya (Sule) ma’am, and she gave us five packets of ration.”
Altaf Shaikh

Each ration pack contains five kgs of rice, sugar, daal and flour and was distributed among the community - it will only last a week, they say.

Ramiya, an HIV positive trans person added that she had to stay back in the city and could not travel home to her village in Andhra Pradesh. “In a way, it’s good since I would not be able to get my medications in my village,” she adds.

“We need help, my sisters would work in the railways, on the signals and on the streets but now have no livelihood and it’s hard to get by. It’s difficult to go out as there is a lot of police around too.”

Trans people are often targeted and harassed by the police, and Altaf says the fears prevent them from moving around for help.

Volunteers delivering aid to immunocompromised trans people in Malwani, Maharashtra. 
Volunteers delivering aid to immunocompromised trans people in Malwani, Maharashtra. 
(Photo: Twitter)

Nonetheless, the trans community is relying on civil society donations so far - unless state governments step in with concrete plans to include them in welfare schemes.

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