Excluded from govt schemes, Transgenders demand justice

Excluded from govt schemes during lockdown, transgenders demand special package

Over 2,100 people from the transgender community have written to the government demanding a special package for them, which includes an assured subsistence income of at least Rs. 3,000 per month till Covid-19 is in full control.

In an open letter to Ministries of Home, Finance, and Social Justice, they said none of the schemes announced by the government since the lockdown is of their benefit and the community is pushed into further vulnerability.

The also demanded uninterrupted supply of all essential medication to transgender persons including ART medicines, tuberculosis care and treatment, hormone therapy, and other gender-affirming procedures and an order mandating that no transgender person shall be forced to pay rent or face eviction by their house owners for non-payment of rent during the period of lockdown.

Facing food shortage, the community members also urged the government to universalise the Public Distribution System (PDS) to ensure food security to all needy citizens, including transgender persons, and ensure monthly rations kits.

The community was also pained to note that the government has announced schemes for almost all sections of the society but has left out them. It said the financial package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not make any reference to the transgender community.

"In a welfare state, it is important that vulnerable populations are not seen from the prism of being a ‘numerically influential vote constituency’, but supported by virtue of we being citizens and taxpayers of this country, entitled to equal rights and share in the schemes. We thus seek our rightful share in the Special Financial Package declared due to the lockdown," the letter said.

As per the 2011 Census, there are around 4.88 lakh transgenders in the country. A 2015 study says 87% of them survive by begging or sex work.

While demanding that they need an assured income of at least 3,000 per month till the pandemic is in full control, they said the National Institute of Social Defence (NISD) of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment made an interim arrangement of Rs 1,500 to around 4,500 transgender persons from different states. This accounts for just 1% of the community, they said.

"A majority of transgender persons live in conditions of abject poverty, social exclusion and eke out our livelihood primarily through begging and sex work, both of which are avenues of work that entail public presence and physical contact. With physical distancing having been mandated (and rightly so to prevent furthering of virus) transgender persons have been weaned away from our only source of work.  With no permanent sources of income, our condition is as vulnerable as daily wage earners," the said in the letter.

There is an alarm in the community following the death of a transgender person in Indore, they said adding the practice of community living in poor hygienic conditions exposes many to greater health risk at such times, as most of them are driven away from homes early in life.

Pitching for universalisation of PDS, they said a large number of them do not have basic documentation such as Aadhaar card, ration card, election card and bank accounts their self-identified name and gender, to seek any services from government.

"Most of us remain outside the coverage of government social security schemes like rations and pensions; making it impossible to survive in such times of lockdown. The non-availability of suitable ID cards is a systemic gap as pointed out even by the Supreme Court and cannot be used against us to deny welfare benefits," they said.

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