The coronavirus-induced lockdown has hit the transgender community in Karnataka hard, with the closure of public spaces and cancellation of wedding events leading to a loss in earnings. Little support from the government meant they have been pushed to the brink.
“With alms is the only source of my income, I don’t have any money to buy ration so I have taken a loan from few people to survive in this time,” says Chandrika, a member of the transgender community who lives in Bengaluru.
Chandrika adds, “I came to this city from a village in Tumakuru leaving my parents and now my only family is my community people. We are somehow managing money and eating less as possible to survive and save whatever money we have.”
Social ostracisation has forced the transgender community to largely depend on seeking alms, sex work, and doing other odd jobs for survival.
“I used to beg on the city roads to get some money, this was the season for marriages and various ceremonies, where we are asked to attend and bless the newly married couple, in this, we use to get some good money. But due to the lockdown, there are no functions and we are not able to get money. We are the people who always have problems to survive but now the problems have become more,” says Pushpa.
Several transpersons who are also HIV positive couldn’t access Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) amid the lockdown. Pushpa says, “My friends who are HIV positive can’t go to the hospital due to the fear of coronavirus. They are very sensitive and forget about treatment if they are not getting healthy and nutritious food.”
In a relief to the community, on April 9, the Karnataka High Court has directed the state government to immediately provide pension and extend relief under the ‘Mythri scheme’ for transgenders. In its observations, the bench noted that members of the transgender community should be paid two months’ worth of pension amounting to Rs 1,200 in advance due to the lockdown in effect in the state.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Akkai Padmashali, the founder of Ondede, a LGBTQIA+ organisation in Karnataka, said: “The government has completely forgotten about the transgender community who are facing worst condition after the lockdown. Hence we went to the High Court asking for our rights and the Court has given the community hope that at least we can survive the next two months.”
On 1 April, advocates on behalf of Ondede filed an impleadment petition in the Karnataka High Court in an existing Public Interest Litigation about the restrictions faced by vulnerable groups because of the lockdown.
Akkai Padmashali also said that the government should create awareness about the Covid-19 among the LGBTQIA+ community. “Most of the people in the community are into sex work to earn money, government should educate them about the preventive measures on the transmission of coronavirus,” she added.
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