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Transwoman’s Suicide In Mumbai Puts Spotlight On Their Lack Of Privilege Worsened By Lockdown

Posted: May 14, 2020

The suicide of a transwoman due to the loss of livelihood and unavailability of medicines amidst the COIVD-19 lockdown, yet again questions our privilege.

A 38-year old HIV-positive transgender woman killed herself in Mumbai on Monday. This happened in Malvani area of suburban Malad. According to the report published in National Herald, the woman took this step ‘apparently due to the loss of livelihood and unavailability of medicine amidst the coronavirus-induced lockdown.’

The report also mentions that the woman was struggling to make both ends meet and had exhausted her stock of grocery and food due to the lockdown. All of this because she had lost her source of livelihood an official said told the National Herald. Another trigger was the unavailability of medicine for her medical condition. 

This unfortunate incident brings to light the fact that right now the transgender communities are struggling to make ends meet.

Transgender Community – one of the worst hit by Lockdown

The nationwide lockdown has hit the minorities the most. We hear about migrant labours suffering due to lack of food and transport. Another minority community suffering but is often invisible is the transgender community. 

While most of us are managing our work online, these people can’t do that because their lives are balanced on social interactions and functions. Most of the transpeople in India resort to begging and sex work to earn money and feed themselves. However, due to the nation-wide lockdown, their sources of income have stopped.

Now, they are left to survive on their savings, which quite often are meagre. The estimated population of transpeople in India is two million and they are among the most hit by the lockdown as most of them make their living on streets. One of the reasons for this is social discrimination.

The problem in the rural areas

The ‘Hijra’ community, the ones living in deras relies on auspicious events, begging and sex-work for earning money. For centuries, now, they have been facing discrimination from the privilege classes.

However, during this pandemic, the level of discrimination shot up to a whole new level. In several areas, transgenders are been held responsible for spreading coronavirus. This social discrimination has made it tougher for them to gather essential resources during this pandemic. 

Apart from this, a number of them suffer from HIV and other STDs and STIs. And due to the lack of medical resources, they are struggling to get their monthly medicines as well. 

According to a report in Scroll most of the health checkups have been postponed indefinitely. Thus, making the transgender communities more vulnerable to COVD-19, owing to an already weak immune system. 

Although the government is providing HIV treatment, it is only provided to those who are registered with authorities. Most of the transpeople, including the HIV-positive ones often suffer in the villages. Thus, the ones benefitting are the ones from urban areas. (As published in the Hindustan Times)

The Urban Problem

Most of the transgenders living in urban areas don’t live in deras but live alone. They rely on regular work for making their ends meet. Since most of these transpeople have either fled from home or thrown out by their families, they don’t have a home to go back to. 

They can’t think of going back to their families because, for almost all of them, home is an unsafe and traumatic space. Yet, there is very little to no consideration by the government to provide financial aid to these urban transpeople.

Before the lockdown, Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare, R Subrahmanyam mentioned the ministries plans to identify people with financial constraints. He said that these people will be given Rs. 1500 as assistance.

However, on ground, most of the money is already exhausted in paying the house rent and for essential items. And now, most of the young transpeople live in the fear of not being able to survive without further financial aid. 

While, the money was transferred to accounts of all registered members of the trans community, many young members do not have documentation to access the stipend. Mostly because most of them live alone having run away or thrown out of homes and were unable to get their documentation done. (According to an account published in Indian Express)

What’s next for the community?

Apart from financial problems, the mental health issues are also a concern the community is facing. Fear of death, not being able to make ends meet, isolation, past trauma, abusive families is severely raising suicidal thoughts in the community. 

It’s very important that both the State and the Central governments start taking measures to provide proper financial aid to them. That most of them are are not actually registered as transgenders due to lack of proper documentation should also be taken into consideration. Apart from this, a rent moratorium for a few months is also important so they are not thrown out of their houses. 

Apart from government measures, the other important thing right now for us as a society is to talk about the issues they are facing. We need to talk so that there is a change in the attitude of people and the government towards minority communities. It is high time we made the issues of the transgender community ‘visible.’

Picture credits: Still from Netflix Series Sacred Games

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