The Kerala High Court has been moved in a petition seeking to ensure the distribution of food ration, medicines, access to medical treatment etc. to the transgender communities in the state.
The petitioner Aneera Kabeer, a transgender person, has submitted that since the nationwide lockdown on March 25, the transgender community has been facing lack of access to essential food supply, medicines and treatment. They also face a threat of torture at the hands of police authorities. Many of them are unemployed due to the prohibition on institutions and shops to work since the lockdown. Most persons from the transgender community have no other livelihood options other than begging and sex work and due to the lockdown, they have been completely without any form of livelihood or earnings. The ones who are working in petty shops or other small contractual employment are also not having any earnings or income since the lockdown.
The Division Bench of Justices Anu Sivaraman and MR Anitha heard Senior Advocate Senior Advocate Jayna Kothari for the Petitioner and Additional Advocate General, Ranjith Thampan for the Government.
The Court has then adjourned the matter for further hearing.
"Transgender persons have been specifically discriminated against in the grant of relief measures during lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 and the transgender community in Kerala including the petitioner continuously suffer a violation of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution", contends the petition filed through Advocate Thulasi K. Raj.
The various issues faced by the Transgender community in Kerala have been enlisted in the petition-
(a) Lack of access to ration and community kitchens "Due to the restrictions accompanied by the lockdown, persons like the petitioner are forced to stay indoors without sufficient access to ration and essential supplies. A major problem faced by the members of the community is lack of ration cards. Even though the general policy of the state seems to be universalisation of ration without insisting for ration cards, the same is not implemented at the grass root level", it is advanced. The petitioner has recounted a personal experience of having visited the Civil Supplies Office in Palakkad after the lockdown where she was refused ration on the ground that she has no ration card. Due to permanent exclusion and ostracization from their families, they have no access to family ration cards where their names might have been shown. The Transgender Persons are also discriminated in the matter of distribution of other food essentials.
(b) Lack of access to medicines and medical treatment The right to medicines and access to medical treatment is denied to a large extent to the transgender persons. Several of the persons have undergone sex reassignment surgery and hormonal treatment for which hormonal medication is mandatorily prescribed. They are unable to continue their hormone therapy causing serious physical and psychological distress. The number of HIV positive cases among the community is also very high, for which adequate medical attention is essential. Many members of the trans community are also elderly and suffering from health issues like heart ailments, diabetes, cancer etc. and they need medicines and treatment which they cannot afford during this time.
(c) Inability to pay rent and threat of eviction Many persons in the community live as tenants and are unable to pay rent due to abrupt loss of their employment. They also face a threat of eviction especially from private landlords. Due to the general stigma against transgender people, ordinarily, they find it difficult to find places to stay. Sufficient safeguards are absent to prevent illegal evictions of members of the community. They seek urgent reliefs against the threat of eviction and rehabilitation.
(d) Prohibition against torture and degrading treatment Even during the present times, the members of the community who were forced to resort to begging for daily survival and are on the streets are being harassed by police officers. They are still looked down upon by officers of the state and are not provided with equal treatment. Stigma against the community persists on large scale and has increased steeply during the Covid lockdown and in fact has worsened. The Transgender community is harassed as they are seen as spreading the corona virus.
(e) Social unemployment allowance Abrupt loss of employment and income has made it difficult for the community to find means of survival post 25 March 2020. The state government is required to devise urgent measures by which financial security is guaranteed to the members of the community, and in particular to those unemployed and those receiving abysmally low income. They need cash support in the form of a social security pension or allowance or a one- time cash payment which is being given to others such as migrant workers or construction workers for their loss of livelihood.
i. The petitioner has prayed for a direction to the state of Kerala to ensure adequate distribution of food rations, vegetables and essentials to Transgender persons in Kerala from Civil Supplies Offices and other outlets without insisting for production of ration cards as long as the threat of Covid-19 persists;
ii. To ensure adequate medicines, including HIV and hormone therapy medicines from primary health centres, government hospitals and dispensaries to the Transgender persons in Kerala as long as the threat of Covid-19 persists;
iii. To ensure unemployment allowance to the Transgender persons as long as the threat of Covid-19 persists;
iv. To ensure cooking facilities, access to community kitchens, free LPG cylinders and rehabilitation for Transgender persons in Kerala as long as the threat of Covid-19 persists;
v. To provide social security and financial support to transgender persons for as long as the threat of COVID-19 persists;
vi. To take steps to ensure that the Transgender persons in Kerala are not subject to torture at the hands of various police officers and that Transgenders living in rented premises are not evicted by private landlords due to non-payment of rent;
vii. To prohibit forced evictions of Transgender persons from their places of residence.
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