They deserve the dignity and respect afforded to any other citizen
According to a survey of the Department of Social Services, there are more than 10,000 transgender/the Hijra people in Bangladesh. However, several private organizations that are working to protect the rights of the Hijra community estimated that the number could be more than 50,000.
Transgender people are commonly known as Hijras in Bangladesh and they belong to one of the most neglected and under-privileged communities in the country. They are even neglected at educational institutions and by the society at large.
Their situation, however, got even worse after the outbreak of Covid-19. While during the first wave, Hijra people got food and relief from various organizations, the case was quite the opposite when the second wave came.
This time, when the government imposed a second lockdown, very little support/help was offered from the government or from the non-governmental organizations. Some of the Hijra might have received support, but that number was hardly significant.
Plenty of them were evicted from their houses. House-owners were not willing to rent their houses to Hijras people. The government officials have also failed to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation.
For all these reasons, most of them had to leave the city and shift to the villages. But the scenario is not different there either. Families and societies don’t accept them because of who they are.
Survival becomes more difficult with nowhere to go. Day by day, the community is becoming more vulnerable.
The main earning sources were begging, extortion, and even prostitution, and performing in weddings or at the birth of a child in households.
Because of Covid-19, their earning sources essentially stopped. Also, people do not allow them into their houses anymore. Only those who have jobs in the community are now living in somewhat moderate conditions -- but that number is far from satisfactory.
Plenty of Hijra people also used to work in hotels/parlours and lost their jobs because of the imposed lockdown. People who started businesses on a small scale are also facing immense losses.
NGOs and other microfinance organizations working in the grassroot level have failed to provide any financial support, even in the form of loans. Members of the trans community engaged in various businesses were facing challenges to receive any funds -- officials said they don’t have such funds, particularly for this community.
People needs to change their mindset towards the transgender community. Hijra was recognized as a separate gender in 2013 by the government of Bangladesh in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Yet, those from the community continue to be ignored even in the mainstream job market.
Organizations working for the marginalized people ironically often don’t even allow these marginalized individuals to work in their institutes. Society needs to change the way they look at the community -- only this will change the entire scenario and the condition of the community as well.
Transgender people having their NIDs are still struggling to get vaccinated. They are questioned about their identity, implying that most of their faces don’t match with the ID.
Also, some of them don’t know how to register and there is no one to help them regarding the vaccination process.
It’s crucial for people in the transgender community to access the vaccine from affirming spaces, since they often experience discrimination in the health care system. Vaccination issues need to be solved as early as possible.
For the transgender community, there’s naturally more hesitation because of all the discrimination that they go through and all the barriers that they encounter. To ensure equal treatment and access to a decent life, initiatives must be taken by everyone -- the government, the NGOs, the health care services, and the society in general.
Anneysha Zafrin is Programme Associate-Dialogue & Communication at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).