By Sweta Choudhury from Kingston University, London, United Kingdom
Today the world is witnessing tremendous patterns of transformation. Each country has given its best attempts to fight the deadly Corona Virus and maintain social distancing while learning to become used to the distinct ways of living. India too like every other country is battling the virus thereby witnessing economic downfall and recession Much has been speculated and written about poverty, mental health, including people losing out on jobs returning home in the media, But to be honest all the mainstream news including substances regarding the pandemic seem way beyond time, sadly, while one part of the world seems involved speaking in the business language of losses and profit, many important exposed groups of people are suffering because of the pandemic whose plight and agony is nowhere seen to be represented in the media. Out of many, the LGBTQ community In India is one community whose livelihood has been greatly affected due to the unexpected nation-wide lockdown earlier this year. Let us look at some detailed insights into this underrated issue that has failed to achieve the very worthy limelight.
IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC
The LGBTQ community sighed a huge relief and celebrated a huge moment of victory when Homosexuality was considered illegal in 2018, declaring Section 377 felonious and pronouncing that sexuality can never be confined to a binary. Even though there is not enough proof that infers that LGBTQ members are likely to contract the virus yet the social stigma surrounding their existence makes it even harder for them to live peacefully. The pandemic has been a massive setback to them because of several reasons. Firstly, living in narrow neighborhood lanes makes it impossible for them to maintain social distancing norms. Secondly, their lifestyle makes them an HIV prone individual resulting in a weak immune system that cannot fights against the virus. Lastly, the most critical case is of those transgenders whose daily means of support came from working as sex workers or working as beggars or dancing at weddings promptly have zero income coming to meet their necessities.
People sharing their spaces with unsupportive families are more likely to develop anxiety, stress, and also severe depression as most of them are very commonly subjected to physical violence from their families along with the visible existence of the prejudice and discrimination they face on a day to day basis. Shockingly according to reports by Qrius, posters In Hyderabad asserting “Speaking to a transgender will get you infected by Covid-19.” were seen. This made certain transgenders even more insecure about their position in the society amidst the pandemic. Considering the nation-wide lockdown mental illness has gone up to about 20 percent in total. Although several laws like the Transgender Protection Act enacted in 2019 was passed, the active participation and agreement from the masses are yet to be determined.
The most consequential problem out of all these issues is the fact that most of these transgenders are not knowledgeable and educated enough to own the right documenters like Aadhar Card to seek healthcare services in the country. According, to research India currently holds about 4.8 million transgenders wistfully out of which only about 10 percent hold a legitimate voters ID. This clearly shows the lack of equal representation in society despite legal authorization. Many of these helpless workers are now attempting out alternative professions.
Multiple medicine dependent people are struggling to find restock of their pills and hormone injections post the lockdown. Therefore many NGOs are providing aid to these communities. Additionally, the government of Karnataka state, In April declared that the transgenders who meet their needs by a monthly pension will be given a straight 2-month upfront sum along with medicines. Similarly, The Assam government has successfully also provided free supplies to transgenders in places like Lakhimpur and Guwahati across the state. Likewise, The PM Garib Kalyan has been pretty much of a boon to the people of this community but they are still failed to be recognized as beneficial people ultimately pushing them in the category of below the poverty line. (BPL)
While personal hygiene and its needs are regarded as one of the most essential especially for women around the world, transgenders in India are nowhere to be represented in the category. For instance, the menstruating transgenders are facing an extra “menstrual poverty” as they are witnessing a shortage in sanitary napkins. Moreover even in general some people from the community are given an amount of Rs 1500 for daily groceries is not enough for their long-term survival according to reports by The New Indian Express.
The plight of the LGBTQ community in focus to the transgender people after the outbreak of the pandemic is immensely heartbreaking. Hence to improve the scenario several NGOs are providing help to cope up with mental health by organizing digital platforms like YouTube, Zoom, Facebook, etc. Various topics such as body image, hormone imbalance, and the importance of staying physically fit. Several others have provided entrepreneurship platforms and initiated ideas with the community.
The LGBTQ community has come a long way in comparison to when it began its journey in a delicate nation like India. A tremendous piece of credit goes to the Supreme Court of India and the government because firstly, in a country like Indian where gender-based roles are somewhence still assigned in a household through the ties of what is called an arranged marriage within a man and a woman, it is beyond troublesome to make people accept the concept of the third gender and likewise same-sex relationships. Thirdly, one cannot always blame the activists and the humanitarians to protest for them and actively seek support. Others should also take an interest in their livelihood. The urgent need is to transfer daily essentials through the public distribution system and aggressive enrolment in opening bank accounts, applying for an Aadhar card, etc. The key is to spend time and money to carry out targeted interventions and amendment of laws to enforce equal representation as a gender to access their beneficial needs. Sadly, the mainstream media is hardly bothered to showcase this side of the society. Certainly, the pandemic is an awakening event for the world. Still, the LGBTQ community is one of the most vulnerable ones concerning this pandemic. Hence lend a hand in need to count in a good deed.