Coronavirus: No proper healthcare and livelihood for West Bengal’s trans community

The covid crisis has severely affected the trans community in the state. Not only financial hazards but also, they are facing immense physical and mental abuse. 

By Kusumika Das

Kolkata /August 02, 2021

Over one and a half years into the outbreak of Covid-19 in India, the trans community of West Bengal is still struggling to access basic facilities such as health care, ration etc.

A large number of members of the trans community have lost their livelihoods due to the ongoing lockdown. Sex work and begging have turned out their two basic options, that also not on a regular basis.

Due to the lockdown, they could not go for begging for several months. Sex work was also at halt. Traditional employment opportunities have remained inaccessible as usual.

“We are trying to make arrangements. We have talked to several corporate houses and they have appointed us. Our members are working at ‘Wow Momo’, ‘Flipkart’, ‘Amazon’. We have a plan to start a café run by the trans community in Kolkata.”, added Ranjita Sinha, director of the Association of Trans and Hijras in West Bengal (ATHB).

 The founder of ‘Gokhale Road Bandhan’, a community-based organization also said, “There is no development for the transgender community. ‘Duare Sorkar’‘Kannyashree’, ‘Lakkhir Bhandar’ all the welfare schemes are for girls but trans women are deprived.”

“It is evident that West Bengal’s administration is really poor and the trans community has no power as such in their hands. Actually, there is a deliberate reluctance of the govt.”, added the famous trans activist.

When it comes to accessing healthcare, it becomes a daunting ordeal for trans people as they face the staunchest discrimination from healthcare providers.

Manabí Bandyopadhyay, India’s first transgender college principal, was allegedly denied a Covid-19 RT-PCR test at a government hospital in Kolkata.

So far there is not a single govt. hospital for the trans community. After protesting several times, the government. has allotted four beds in one hospital in the whole state.

Member of Transgender Welfare Board, Ranjita said, “Though there is no medical care unit for us but we have collaborated with Peerless Hospital and have started running a private hospital named “Antar” which basically provides clinical support.”

The accommodation has always remained a problem for this community. A study conducted by the Kerala Development society on behalf of the National Human Rights Commission stated, only two percent of trans children stay with their parents after their puberty.

Under such circumstances, ADHD has built two shelters in Kolkata, “Astana”, “Garima Griha”. The community members whom the society has abandoned or who need urgent shelter can stay there on a temporary basis.

The organization is also providing them various professional training such as tailoring, cooking etc. to make them independent.

Transportation, especially in the time of this pandemic has remained difficult for trans people. As the number of vehicles is lesser in number, they are facing discrimination everywhere.  

Due to the lockdown, many of them are stuck at their home and are facing physical and emotional abuse by their blood families. Often they are becoming the victims of ‘correctional rapes’ by their own family members.

Shivansh, a trans man from Gwalior, currently living in Kolkata said, “My family was unaware about this. They also did not try to understand. They used to say that once I get married everything would be fine. My family forced me to get married and then one day I ran away.”

The cases of violence against trans people are pretty high. Though section 377 is helping them to fight against the odds they face, more acts are needed to be passed in the favour of the trans community.

 However, in the words of Miss. Sinha we can say, “Trans people have no job reservation, no medical care unit. No govt. funding is provided. Still, they exist. They are under so many odds, still, they are fighting. That’s what matters the most.”