The hijra community in India, known and shunned for its alternative lifestyle, is among the most vulnerable communities during this unforeseen pandemic. Most of its members live a life of coercion, inescapable from the inflammatory comments and notorious behaviour of cisgender people. Whilst the privileged have still not retired from romanticising the pandemic, the transgender community dwells in uncertainty about their future.
Before coronavirus struck India, society was careful to extract their services and labour while keeping them at a social distance. However, with the imposition of the lockdown, there has been an increased skepticism about the community, that mostly earns their livelihood through sex work, begging, and informal labour. Many of them do not have bank accounts and are unable to avail of the benefits under the government’s program.
Caught in this pandemic without any identity card has also augmented their risk of not being eligible for any public distribution scheme.
The transgender community of India has been forced to confine themselves to their households, and a very few people know of the hierarchical relationship operating in their domestic lives. This can possibly expose them to routinised abuse and humiliation.
Besides, the hijra community is susceptible to harbouring STDs like HIV/AIDS. A substantial proportion of them turn to alcohol and drugs to alleviate habitual stress and anxiety.
Additionally, discrimination in healthcare settings is not a matter than being viewed in isolation in this context. With very few people being accepting of the diversities of gender identity, they are not exempted from social exclusion even by medical professionals. The deliberate use of male pronouns, admission into male wards and habitual verbal abuse are just a handful of their unavoidable brutalities.
The concept of normality for transgender women prior to the outbreak also needs diligent scrutiny in view of the Trans Rights Bill nonchalantly passed by parliamentarians in the last phase of 2019.
The author is a class 12 student, interested in politics, sociology and history.