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How COVID-19 amplified pre-existing disadvantages of transgender persons

By September 26, 2020December 21st, 2023No Comments

Are gender minorities, like transgender persons, further disadvantaged during disaster situations?

YUVA’s recent research report found that the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have exacerbated pre-existing challenges and discrimination as well as brought forth new vulnerabilities that transgender persons are forced to cope with.

Issues with regard to housing, finance, healthcare, and discrimination in access to ration, was reported by transgender persons, which was clearly reflected in the interviews conducted with six of them during the lockdown. The demands stated by them in these interviews have helped shaped the recommendations in the report to ensure relevant and inclusive relief and recovery measures for the community.

Issues of Housing

‘Where should I go during this lockdown? I told him aren’t you ashamed? I agree it is your house but wait for 2–4 months at least. I said I will complain to the police, then he agreed’, shared Jyoti, a 53-year-old transgender person living in Nalasopara in Vasai–Virar who was asked by the landlord to vacate the house during the lockdown because the 11-month rental agreement expired.

Transgender persons often faces discrimination and unfair treatment from landlords and neighbours in relation to access to housing, renting, or owning property. The financial stringency due to the lockdown made it difficult for them to pay for food, rent and electricity. This raised their anxiety and fear of becoming homeless during the lockdown.

Once the rains begin, our homes will be destroyed. The water comes into our homes, we have to rebuild. Who knows, if this goes on for 4–5 more months, whether we will live or die?

 Kiran from Nalasopara in Vasai–Virar felt vulnerable without enough money to find a home

Issues of Finance

Living in major urban centres like Mumbai has not caused much transformational change in terms of livelihood sources and living standards for transgender persons. With the development of gated communities and highly guarded elite market spaces, the spaces for begging have shrunk. All the transgender participants shared that they beg either in poor settlements and markets or on roads and trains. While begging on roads and trains is out of the question since the lockdown, poor communities that could donate to transgender persons otherwise are also now struggling financially themselves.

If we go anywhere to beg, the other person says that “the lockdown is going on, I don’t have money or ration in my house. What can I give you?” People start crying in front of us’, shares Jyoti. ‘Now the condition is such that we feel embarrassed asking for money

Kiran from Nalasopara, Vasai–Virar

They even remained excluded from the government’s Jan Dhan relief package, the financial security scheme during this crisis. Jyoti heard on television that the government was crediting INR 500 in Jan Dhan accounts. She checked her Jan Dhan account when other people told her that they got the money. But she had not received anything. She called the local Corporator two times. ‘But he gave a very casual response.’ He said, “There is nothing. There is nothing that the government will give you”’.

Issues with Access to Ration

‘They said, “no, we will not be giving ration to you”. I only want to say that if you are noting the names of everyone then note our names also. Everyone is equal. Everyone should be taken care of during the lockdown’ . Mahek from Mumbai’s Western Suburbs shared that during a ration distribution in their lane, only her house was excluded.

During the lockdown, transgender persons faced discrimination from ration vendors and food distributors in their own neighbourhoods. Most of the transgender participants did not have ration cards and faced challenges to access the Public Distribution System (PDS). Some of them had their names registered on their parents’ ration cards in their native places.

It is not uncommon among gender minorities to be estranged by their family members because of breaking society’s gender norms. But in case someone already registered on a ration card wants to get a new one, the PDS system assumes and expects applicants to have access to their family’s entitlements and needs them to remove their names from those first, which is highly difficult for estranged and disowned family members.

The ration card was in the name of my parents. They passed away. That time I had not made any proof. Now they are asking for a lot of money and a lot of documents to make my ration card

29-year-old Gauri who was originally from West Bengal

Recommendations of the report

Social Security and Housing for Transgender Persons

Most participants lived in rented houses and demanded for a house where they could live since they do not have the resources to buy a house. The Government must extend social security and direct cash transfers to transgender persons in times like these.

Universalise the PDS system and issue emergency ration cards

Universalisation of the PDS must be centrally facilitated with States mandated to provide ration to any citizen irrespective of documentation. This will help millions in securing food irrespective of location, documentation or income category. Each Fair Price Shop (FPS) should have an area jurisdiction. This will enable fast-track emergency ration card preparation and can curb risk of duplication. FPS shops should be allowed to issue emergency ration cards. Transgender persons, single women, unsupported senior citizens and other vulnerable groups must be given priority.

Extend benefits under PMJDY to transgender persons

Relief provisions specifically aimed at women through Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) should be extended to transgender persons as well. Bank charges should not apply to these accounts where government cash transfers are made.

The Maharashtra Transgender Welfare Board must be made functional

In the absence of other work opportunities and social stigma, transgender persons depend on begging and sex work. This has been completely disrupted at present. Survey and registration of transgender persons must be done with urgency. The Board should ensure enrollment of all transgender persons in the Public Distribution System (PDS), Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and ensure that other basic identity documents are fast tracked. Along with this, social security should be provided to them via the Welfare Board.

Long-term recovery measures

As per the Maharashtra State Disaster Management Plan 2016, community-based early warning systems must be established in urban poor settlements to improve their disaster preparedness. Single women, transgender persons and unsupported elderly people must be integrated in community-based networks to ensure their security during disasters and inclusion during relief work and recovery.

Our report ‘Living with Multiple Vulnerabilities: Impact of Covid-19 on the Urban Poor in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region’ contains in-depth research and recommendations to support the rights and needs of other marginalised communities among the urban poor like — women headed households, domestic and sanitation workers, street vendors, children, etc.

Read the complete report in English.

Extracted and compiled from the original report by Mohammed Anajwalla

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