BENGALURU : With Karnataka in a state of lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19, members of the transgender community are facing a plethora of issues -- from losing their sources of income to not being able to access vaccines. According to data from the Covid-19 state war room, 3,134 transgenders have tested positive for Covid-19 in Karnataka since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
Their livelihood has been severely hit due to the lockdowns, given that their two main sources of income are begging and sex work. Add to this, the social stigma and discrimination they face in society have created more problems for them.
“Just as people of other genders found it difficult to avail treatment in hospitals, the same situation played out among transgenders. Many of them live with HIV, blood pressure and diabetes. There has been no support from the government in terms of Covid-19 health care. We have had to rely on the generosity of some doctors,” said Mallu Kumbar, state coordinator, Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum.
Akkai Padmashali, transgender activist from NGO Ondede, said the figure of 3,134 is grossly under-reported as there are close to 8,000-10,000 transgenders in Bengaluru alone. According to Akkai, many have even succumbed to Covid-19.
“The system in the city does not address the issue of transgenders. Even in the second wave, Karnataka was caught unprepared and we had trouble accessing beds, oxygen and vaccines. When we contact doctors and officials, they seem to be ignorant. We need a statewide campaign from the government’s side to vaccinate transgenders, sex workers, LGBTQIA community members, differently-abled, street vendors, etc. To begin with, we need a survey to identify the number of transgenders in Karnataka,” Akkai said.
Nakshatra R Gola, founder of Nammane Summane orphanage and a transgender, said they have no support from family and society to take of those who contract Covid-19. “Transgenders are like daily wage labourers and cannot afford private hospital care. When in home isolation, they have problems accessing groceries and medicines and availing treatment,” Nakshatra said.
They also feel neglected as they were not included in the Rs 1,250-crore relief package announced by Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa. Kumbar said the community needs direct transfer of Rs 10,000 to survive the ongoing lockdown and pandemic, and that they also require a complete ration kit and not just rice and dal.