Transgenders in Mumbai left with no straws to clutch at | Mumbai News

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MUMBAI: Access to physical and emotional security has always been a struggle for the transgender community, but coronavirus has made it worse. With a majority of them battling poverty, the odds are further stacked up. Apparently fighting to “make ends meet”, a trans person committed suicide at her Malwani residence last week. She is among the hundreds of transgenders across the city locked in their tiny houses with no access to basic supplies, money or family support.
Transgender activist Gauri Sawant, who runs the NGO Sakhi Char Chowgi Trust in Malwani, Malad (West), said there are around 2,500 transgenders in Malwani, 80% of who are below the poverty line. They made Rs200 per day through begging, but that was abruptly halted by the lockdown.
Most of them are daily wage earners eking out a living from begging, sex work or ‘toli badhai’ — a time-honoured source of livelihood among the transgender and intersex community by way of singing, dancing and offering their blessings at birth and marriage ceremonies. With social distancing here to stay, it’s unlikely they will be able to reclaim their livelihoods anytime soon.
The story of Aliya is indicative. It’s been six weeks since she stepped out of her one-room house in Vasai. Eight others living with her had tried to sneak out to go begging, only to be chased away by cops. Aliya and her roommates are among the dozens of transgenders in the Vasai-Virar region locked home.
“It’s been three weeks and we have barely stepped out. The first week we survived on rice and dal. Now we’re starving,” said Meena, a transwoman. A few landed in migrant camps, but were shooed away as they did not classify as daily workers.
Disowned by hostile families, going back home is not an option. And more than the virus, the lack of food, medicines, shelter and other essentials has pushed them further to the margins.
Two days after the nationwide lockdown, the Union finance ministry had announced a stimulus package which included specific measures for vulnerable groups, but it left out the transgender population of about 4.9 lakh (2011 census).
“Our community has faced discrimination and stigma for ages, yet we’ve survived. This situation is unprecedented and has rendered us more helpless than ever. No one has a ration card, not even me. Why could the government not come up with a special scheme to help the transgender community?” said Priya Patil, project manager of Kinnar Maa Ek Samajik Sanstha, who joined the NCP last year.
Although the maiden budget of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government fulfilled a long-standing demand of the community by allocating Rs 5 crore for a Transgender Welfare Board in March, it is still on paper due to the lockdown.
About 2,000 members of the transgender community and their allies across India have written to the Centre seeking a special package providing ration kits, health support and protection from eviction apart from an “assured subsistence allowance of at least Rs 3,000 per month” to every transgender person, until the pandemic subsides.



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