Access to physical and emotional security has always been a struggle for the transgender community, but coronavirus has made it worse. With a majority of them battling poverty, the odds are further stacked up. Apparently fighting to “make ends meet”, Seema a trans person tried to committed suicide last week. She is among the hundreds of transgenders across the city locked in their tiny houses with no access to basic supplies, money or family support.
Expressing concern over the problems being faced by the transgender community, Mallika— a 24-year-old transgender person who took the responsibility to feed 300 people every day including homeless and people belong to nomadic tribes who are residing under a flyover at Kancharapalem during the lockdown period, said there are around 1,500 transgenders in Vizag, 80% of who are below the poverty line residing in areas such as Dharmanagar and part of Thatichetlapalem, Akkyapalem and Kancharapalem. They made Rs200 per day through begging, but that was abruptly halted by the lockdown.
“Most of them are daily wage earners eking out a living from begging, sex work. or ‘toli badhai’ — a time-honoured source of livelihood among the transgender and intersex community by way of singing, dancing and offering their blessings at birth and marriage ceremonies. With social distancing here to stay, it’s unlikely they will be able to reclaim their livelihoods anytime soon” she added
The story of Rani is indicative. It’s been six weeks since she stepped out of her one-room house. Eight others living with her had tried to sneak out to go begging, only to be chased away by cops. Rani and her roommates are among the dozens of transgenders in the Kancharpalem Mettu region locked home.
“It’s been three weeks and we have barely stepped out. The first week we survived on rice and dal. Now we’re starving,” said Meena, a transwoman. A few landed in-migrant camps, but were shooed away as they did not classify as daily workers. Disowned by hostile families, going back home is not an option. And more than the virus, the lack of food, medicines, shelter and other essentials has pushed them further to the margins.
Two days after the nationwide lockdown, the Union finance ministry had announced a stimulus package which included specific measures for vulnerable groups, but it left out the transgender population of about 4.9 lakh (2011 census). “Our community has faced discrimination and stigma for ages, yet we’ve survived said Rani. This situation is unprecedented and has rendered us more helpless than ever.
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