Authors: Dr. Sukriti Chauhan, Shirin Yachu and Kiran Butola
IN COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent isolation had a serious impact on socio-economic development, public health and social dynamics of society. While this is considered by many to be a “great equalizer,” this assumption does not take into account how social identity affects a person’s life.
When we celebrate Pride Month, the reality is that the LGBTQIA + community remains on the fringes of most storytelling. Before the pandemic, many in the community lacked adequate economic and social capital and resorted to work in the informal sector, mainly in the sex industry. badhai toli, and begging, which was hit hard last year by Covid 19. Many lost their livelihoods, could not pay rent, were evicted from their homes and forced to return to their “original home and family.” Here, incidents of violence, heightened surveillance, and lack of peer support systems create indoor discomfort. A research group of queer feminists in Nazariyah in Delhi reported a doubling in the number of calls to their helplines and had to increase the number of psychotherapists to help queer people in distress.
The focus on Covid-19 has also led to the de-prioritization of a host of health issues affecting community members. Many continue to live in crowded places, leading to a struggle to adhere to Covid’s core safety protocols. Under these conditions, isolation, social distancingand sanitary facilities are rare. This is compounded by stigma and disapproval due to the personality of these members.
In terms of access to vaccinations, community members do not have the proper documentation required to register a vaccine. According to the 2011 census, 4.88 million people were declared “other”, of which less than 5 percent were vaccinated. The main reason for this is lack of information and limited access to digital infrastructure. In addition, a 2017 ruling prohibits transgender people, homosexuals and women working in the sex industry from donating blood after recovering from the coronavirus, as they are classified as high-risk.
A recent PIL filed with the Supreme Court highlights discrimination in the implicit decision that donor blood is screened for all infectious diseases. The decision remains a testament to the ostracism faced by the community, which is always viewed on the basis of their identity.
Sharing her experience as a LGBTQIA + Representative and Consultant at the Naz Foundation, Kieran Butola emphasized that Covid has increased the incidence of depression, anxiety and mental health problems – many are left alone from the community and no one to turn to. sex work, mainly women and transgender people, faced a complete stop and were left without resources to navigate. Those who resumed work found it difficult to comply with protective measures. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that government schemes are largely non-societal, and access to basic health care is a challenge in which doctors do not even recognize the anatomical differences that in turn affect treatment. Section 377 may have been amended, but there is an urgent need to attract the attention of stakeholders and the community.
It is imperative that we expand basic health services, provide financial, social and psychological benefits to all members of society, especially the most affected communities. There is a need to develop a central database with data disaggregated by age and sex to bring the concerns of community members into the mainstream of the story. This will especially help regulate the informal sector, which employs the majority of workers in the LGBTQ + community.
At the political level, we find that most of them are gender neutral and do not take into account the special needs of men and women, which makes them less effective. The pandemic once again exacerbates the need for cross-sectoral policies to be responsive to the needs of different communities in order to better respond to health emergencies. Without the adoption, renewal and implementation of policies at the structural level, equality will remain a distant dream.
(Dr. Chauhan – Public Health Specialist and CEO of ETI; Yachu – Public Health Analyst; Butola – LGBTQIA + Trainer, Naz Foundation)