Beyond Binaries: Queering Human Rights for TGNB Community in the times of Covid-19

It is a truism that catastrophe amplifies prevailing disparities which are replicated within the social and economic hierarchal structures that predate the pandemic. Across the globe, injustice is something that lies in plain sight, even in average days, as a deciding factor in vulnerability to human rights violations.

Even in the best of circumstances, TGNB individuals lack employment, accommodation, healthcare services and other disadvantages arising from a combination of persistent racism and inadequate protection and safeguards against discrimination. Amongst other vulnerable group that requires attention, members from this community also endeavour to cope physically, mentally, and financially.

Earlier in this pandemic, it was very prevalent to hear, “The virus is the great equalizer”. However, the deep disparities in having access to the required basic elements of healthcare were quickly highlighted by this crisis. This is particularly true for the TGNB population, which has been profoundly impacted in a variety of ways by the pandemic, including the possibility of exposure to the virus and its adverse effects, delays in access to gender-affirming treatment, and reduced access to social support, which is vital for shielding against the implications of stigma and prejudice. These problems are taking place alongside of legal and interpersonal complexities.

A number of people have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic: migrant workers, labourers, corporate job holders and many more. However, current pandemic has intensified the problems faced by society’s vulnerable and oppressed communities, which already experiences extreme discrimination. While Section 377, which criminalises same-sex relationships, has been repealed, the TGNB community’s acceptance has been sluggish, if at all. And it is the community that has been calling for inclusiveness and basic rights time and again. As we battle COVID-19, their plight has become more evident. Amnesty International, underlining the dilemma of the transgender and non-binary gender community, stated: “As the world comes together, the transgender community of India is battling COVID-19 alone.” Underneath these twofold jolts of social distancing and the covid-19 virus, this organisationally discriminated community has become ever more vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Warning and cautionary Posters were allegedly trapped in Hyderabad illustrating people not to speak to TGNB community as they are the source of novel coronavirus and mere talking to them might spread the virus. As a result, transgender people have been forced to leave their rental homes. They wrote to the various ministries requesting urgent assistance in the face of increased stigma and Trans phobia during the pandemic. COVID-19 is more dangerous to individuals who have a damaged immune system, such as those who have HIV/AIDS. Homeless people, a group that includes many individuals from TGNB community, are less likely to safeguard and protect themselves by increasing their exposure to contagion through physical distance and safe hygiene practises. Thus it puts the transgender community in a situation where their issues are apparent but little is done to fix them. Transgender people are at adverse risk, which is far worse than most citizens.

First and foremost, they are susceptible to abandoning their meagre means of survival. Most of them are trapped in the confines of their “house,” which does not contain essential needs or revenue generation flows.

Secondly, healthcare services have fewer access to them. Although the world is struggling to bring its public health management on board, in the midst of this global pandemic, only the wealthy are able to access health care facilities. The TGNB population is more vulnerable to diseases, has a weakened immune system, and lacks insurance, all of which add to their problems. Most of them are worried that they won’t have access to hormone therapy, medication for HIV/AIDS or sex-reassignment surgery.

Eventually, they are trapped in a vicious cycle of systemic prejudice, isolation, and abuse. The increase in hate crimes has also affected the community badly. Since they can be seen as possible bearers of the virus, there has been an upward increase in stigma and Trans phobia. It is not untrue to say that the idea of ‘social distancing’ is not new to them. They have become very distant from mainstream society. In recent years, hate-mongering has been widespread, leading to the removal of TGNB people from their rental homes.

The state governments, as well as the central government bodies took few relief measures. However, because the initiatives were more majoritarian in nature, the minorities are still lurking within the periphery.

Author discourses significant perspectives to meet the needs of this group.  During COVID 19 and beyond, it is critically important to address this population’s special needs as a more nuanced outlook is needed.


Author: Aaratrika Pandey, Assistant Professor of Law, UWSL, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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