Transgender community appeals for separate vaccination centres

The mad scramble for the coronavirus vaccine in India is even more prominent amo h the transgender community, which is at a greater risk due their communal living. While many can't afford even the seemingly low price of the vaccine due to being out of work for months, most of them are not techsavvy enough to book their slots. Community members also say they face discrimination when using facilities meant for the general public. With all this in mind, they have appealed for separate centres for their vaccination drives. 

The demand was made by transgender activist Urooz Rizvi who appealed to the district administration to hold such a drive in Noida's Gautam Buddha Nagar. Her request has received a positive response from the authorities.  Before this, the Assam government had organised vaccination drives for transgender people, following a similar request from the community members. 

Lack of education, technical know-how and hesitancy are cites as big reasons for the community lagging behind in the vaccination by activists across the country.  "When we go in for vaccination, we are often leered at, called names or misbehaved with. The way differently-abled people have specific centres even we can have one for ourselves," Ramkali from  Noida based Basera Samajik Sansthan based told Likho. 

There is also a lack of awareness on the topic among the tran community that often leads to unrounded fears and general hesitancy. This is compounded with the unique Health challenges and social stigma that are prevalent among the community. Activists working with them have already started covid-specific counseling but it's a monumental task. 

According to Ramkali, many of the trans persons have from HIV or are taking hormone treatment which makes them worry about the vaccine's effects on their health. No wonder than that, the vaccination rate among the people of the community are disproportionately low. Only  4 per cent of the 4.87 lakh-strong population of transgenders in India have been inoculated against COVID-19.

Lucknow based activist Farhaan who works for the community said, "Like most people, their incomes sources have dried up as they can't engage in mangti or sex work in the current scenario. Their savings have also been exhausted. Since the community often lives in close quarters, the infectivity among them can be very high." 

He even gave example of community members in Aminabad in Lucknow being infected, 15 of whom died due to a lack of medical facilities and explicit discrimination. "It becomes critically important for them to get inoculated as soon as possible," he stresses. 

Registration for vaccination is an online process and also requires official document. A large proportion of the transgender people do not have identifying documents, the gadgets to book themselves the slots or the knowledge of how to do it.

Even if states start setting up camps, not every trans person has the luxury of going to them. A trans man himself Raj Kanojia talks about the glaring discrimination against trans men. "We do not fall under the category of Hijra and most of the schemes are launched for either the Hijra community or MSMs. Many of the transgender people who are undergoing hormonal therapy prefer to be closeted until the transformation," he points out. He believes that trans men will be singled out even if there were separate vaccination centres for transgender people. 

They all agree, though, that a collaborative effort by NGOs working for different sects of the community and the government can help take away the disparity. 

About Akriti Singh

Akriti is pursuing journalism at Delhi University's Delhi School of Journalism.

Her life's motto: Chocolate never asks questions. Chocolate understands. Be like Chocolate!

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