PCGT Conclave

LGBTQI :Discrimination and solution with COVID-19 view

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Article By Aakash Jain

Abstract Of The ARTICLE  :

The law occupies a prominent place in the everyday lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQI) individuals, and the continuing regulation and policing of sexuality and gender weighs heavily on many people who identify as LGBTQI. Despite remarkable progress in the area of LGBTQI civil rights, LGBTQI individuals in the country still lack formal equality and are denied many of the protections that are afforded other historically disadvantaged and vulnerable  groups. These legal disabilities represent an ongoing source of minority stress and can produce a correspondingly high degree of legal consciousness within the LGBTQI community. So after understanding their situation . We will try to mitigate the aggravated situation of them especially in the ongoing pandemic.

Homosexuality was legalized in India by the Supreme Court of India in September, 2018.  A five-judge bench of the top court declared Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional and held that human sexuality cannot be confined to a binary. The judgment heralded a new dawn for personal liberty and was like a major victory for the LGBT community. They possessed the same equality as other citizens. But the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the LGBT community.

They are struggling with lack of funds, stigma, and poor mental as well as physical health. The LGBT’s are already a vulnerable group and this pandemic made their life a little more difficult. International Transgender Rights groups are warning that the global coronavirus lockdown restrictions have denied healthcare to them.

It is important to consider LGBT communities in this hour of crisis for two main reasons: firstly, there are several factors which may make LGBT people more at risk of contracting the virus and secondly, because of the inequalities faced by these communities they are denied even the basic healthcare facilities.

Although there is no evidence that suggest that LGBT people are more likely to contract COVID-19 but the grim reality still remains that their individuality is still made a mockery. The concern also remains about the reduced support for LGBT people, particularly those who are homeless and not accepted by families.

The Socio Economic and Caste Census, 2011 states that rural India has 75,008 transgender people. Two key measures in defeating COVID-19 are social distancing and the use of personal protective measures. However, as most transgender people are poor and live in small houses, they do not maintain these preventive measures.

LGBT communities are impacted by HIV and this result in weak immune system. Those begging or doing sex work for their livelihood are the worst affected because they have no income now. They live in small houses in unhygienic conditions, as a result of which these areas are likely to be a hotbed for COVID-19.

Transgender staying with unsupportive family during this lockdown are dealing with stress, anxiety and trauma specially those who have undergone surgery recently. They are prone to fall into the clutches of depression because of the lack of social acceptance since ages, and thus this pandemic has increased their plight.

Higher rates on anxiety, depression and poor mental health has been linked with behaviors detrimental to their overall health including extended use of substance abuse, smoking, drinking, self harm, eating disorders and suicidal tendencies. Often they are subjected to verbal as well as physical abuse by the family members because of lack of understanding and acceptance.

They are facing lack of access to therapy, healthcare as well as medications. Most LGBT people are uneducated as their family disowned them or they quit school due to social stigma, and thus lack proper documentation which makes their access to benefits more impossible. India currently has around 4.8 lakh transgender people, as per the 2011 census data, out of whom only around 10% have a voter ID.

Even before this pandemic there was already a significant level of economic, social, moral as well as mental instability and high rates of stigmatization with them and this pandemic has just added fuel to an already burning community. Medications delays, therapies and surgeries postponed, loss in income are all part and parcel of the LGBT’s, who are used to being one of the last priorities of the government.

With the coronavirus outbreak, we cannot expect the old biases to automatically be wiped off. The LGBT Foundation received numerous complaints from trans-people that they are denied access to prescribed hormone injections, although the World Health Organization and European Commission guidelines on essential services include medications to the LGBT people.

Most transgender people who are undergoing gender reassignment are either out of medicines or on the verge of running out of stock. As Dr. Michael Brady, National Advisor for LGBT Health quotes: “Wherever the question is asked, LGBT people experience poorer outcomes in healthcare.”Many NGO’s are helping them cope with this crisis. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) are working to empower the marginalized communities. The Karnataka Government on April 8 announced that transgender people receiving pension would get it for two months upfront and also free medicines be provided to them.The Assam Government also provided free rations to four transgender people in Lakhimpur district. Chhattisgarh is the only state with a working Transgender Welfare Board. The need of the hour is to break the stigma attached with the LGBT community and lend a helping hand to them at this hour of crisis.

Humans have seen enough fatality during the coronavirus pandemic, so we should understand the pain, which the LGBT people go through and not deny them the right to life.An international survey conducted via LGBT social media and dating sites shows that the measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 epidemic have had a significant impact on the health and economic security of a significant minority of respondents from the LGBT community.The survey was presented in two different analyses at the recent 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020: Virtual). The first looked at the economic, treatment and prevention impact for all respondents. The second, restricted to a subset of countries and to men recruited through the Hornet dating app, looked to see if there was a relationship between the severity of lockdown measures in those countries and the impact on the respondents.

The survey was conducted during the peak of the epidemic and lockdown between mid-April and mid-May this year by an international collaboration of researchers. Erik Lamontagne of UNAIDS told the conference that it involved 58 questions in ten languages and was advertised and hosted by a number of LGBT social media sites.The survey as a whole received replies from over 20,000 LGBT people in nearly 140 countries. There were particularly large responses from Russia (5429 responses) and Turkey, with significant numbers of respondents from France, Brazil, Thailand and Indonesia.Conducted as it was during the peak of the epidemic, three-quarters of respondents said they were partly or totally confined to home at the time.

Twelve per cent said they had HIV and 16% did not know their HIV status. Of those with HIV, the vast majority (94%) were on HIV treatment.Although 72% said they had no interruptions to HIV treatment, 21% said their access had been limited or complicated, with 7% saying they either had or were at imminent risk of running out of antiretrovirals. Forty-two per cent said they had one month or less of medication left.In terms of their economic position, 13% of respondents said that they had lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, 21% said they felt at risk of losing their job, and 23% said they felt insecure about their employment. Food insecurity was frequently reported; 23% said they were eating less or had skipped meals.Thirteen per cent of respondents had been using sex work as their source of income or to supplement it before COVID-19, but only 2% of respondents were continuing it during the pandemic (and therefore risking infection), while 1% said they had actually started doing sex work due to poverty caused by the lockdown. Eleven per cent said they had lost significant income due to stopping sex work.Of those continuing sex work, 17% said sex work became riskier; 4% said they were being paid less per customer and 4% said either that they had had to accept riskier sex or to do sex they would previously not have done.

In terms of HIV prevention accessibility, over 40% said they had access to PrEP, PEP and HIV self-testing, with over 60% reporting access to in-person testing. Only 7% said they had no access to condoms. However, the survey did not ask about whether this accessibility had decreased during COVID. It did find that people who described themselves as belonging to racial or ethnic minorities had slightly, but consistently, less access to HIV prevention.Erik Lamontagne commented: “COVID mitigation strategies have also resulted in unprecedented disruptions to society and their impact on routine healthcare delivery is still unknown. Gay men and other men who have sex with men may be particularly vulnerable as these mitigation strategies consistently appear to exacerbate existing disparities.”

Amrita Rao of Johns Hopkins University concluded: “Innovative strategies, like mobile-service delivery or telehealth, may be needed to minimise the service interruptions from these types of government responses on MSM communities and ensure continuity of care.”

LASTLY I would like to conclude with this :

To quote Supreme Court of India: “Sexual orientation is one of the many biological phenomenons. It is natural and no discrimination can exist. Any violation is against freedom of speech and expression. Morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality. Denial of self expression is like death. Who decides what is natural and what is unnatural?”

REFERENCES:

Lamontagne E et al. COVID-19 pandemic increases socioeconomic vulnerability of LGBTI+ communities and their susceptibility to HIV. 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020: Virtual), abstract LBPEE53, 2020.

Rao A et al. Global interruptions in HIV prevention and treatment services as a result of the response to COVID-19: Results from a social media-based sample of men who have sex with men. 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020: Virtual), abstract OAELB0104, 2020.

“Challenged by Coronavirus, LGBTQ Communities Worldwide Plan Digital Pride Celebrations”. Time. Retrieved 2020-04-13.

 “Pride season isn’t canceled. It’s moving online with ‘Global Pride.'”. Metro Weekly. 2020-04-01. Retrieved 2020-04-13.

 “Amid coronavirus outbreak, LGBT seniors self isolate”. Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2020-04-13.

 “OHCHR | COVID-19: The suffering and resilience of LGBT persons must be visible and inform the actions of States”. http://www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 2020-06-12.

 Eadens, Savannah. “LGBTQ community may be ‘particularly vulnerable’ to coronavirus pandemic. Here’s why”. USA TODAY. Retrieved 2020-04-13.

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