The aftermath of COVID-19 has seen many vulnerable communities at the cusp of debilitation and destitute in Pakistan. One such group of individuals are the transgender community. With around 300,000 transgender individuals estimated to be living within the country, the effect on this isolated community during the pandemic had been appalling. As social stigma and discrimination escalated during the pandemic days, with people avoiding other peoples; this discrimination affected the transgender community manifolds as they had already been frowned upon even before the pandemic days. This comes to show that in the wake of a “post-pandemic” country, the transgender community not only has been adversely affected financially but psychologically as well.
In terms of healthcare during the pandemic, the transgender remained utterly marginalized. They were often deprived of healthcare entitlements because of their gender identity. The community also had a fear of being stigmatized and ridiculed by healthcare professionals that discouraged them from using available healthcare services, which during the pandemic, left them at an increased risk of not being tested or treated for COVID-19. What’s even more intriguing is the lack of published data for transgender community during the course of the pandemic in Pakistan. Our authority’s inability to make an estimate of how many transgender people have been affected is imperative as this community should need a separate representation and not just be grouped as either male or females because doing so, would not consider these individuals as a stigmatized vulnerable group. Until and unless we don’t view this community through the transgender lens, we can not support the community. A similar problem to this that these people face is the fear of not being recognized as neither sex. This causes them to declare themselves as either male or female and thus ultimately sweeping any potential aid under the rug.
As the community’s sole mode of earning was through the service industry this meant that they that a majority of them became unemployed during the crisis. As these vulnerable communities often had the least access to the information, resources, and care they need to stay healthy and safe, most of them have been severely affected by the pandemic. Instead of being committed to continuing services for these marginalized communities, the government didn’t focus more on these people; many of whom fell in the highest-risk categories for contracting COVID-19. The lockdown did disproportionately hurt marginalized communities due to the loss of livelihood and lack of food, shelter, health, and other basic needs. The government has a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of the population, but some of these steps have left tens of thousands of out-of-work migrant workers stranded, with many local commute services forced to be closed. The blanket closure of state borders also caused disruption in the supply of essential goods, leading to inflation and fear of shortages. Due to this, thousands of homeless transgender people are in need of protection. Many of these people have been low-income individuals and faces significant challenges that did not let them protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Many lacked the disposable income, flexible work schedules and the flexibility of working from home.
Another dire issue the community has been facing is the vaccination for the coronavirus. Needless to say, the feeling of discrimination causes several transgender to not make opt for the national identity cards. They prefer being declared men or women as this could help them escape the indifference. Therefore, they cannot avail any sort of COVID19 vaccine. Not getting enough exposure to technology has also created a lot of myths and superstitions involving the side effects of the vaccine among the community. The government did recognize transgender as the third gender in 2018, giving them a say in governance by registering for votes and a voice that they can use to highlight their rights. However, many members of the trans community remain on the margins of society and often make a living through begging, dancing or sex work. This too has led to a lot of problems for the community as a study by UNAIDS revealed that people with HIV/AIDS are more likely to be inflicted by Coronavirus and the transgender has always been the most susceptible to AIDS in that regard.
The government should now take steps in forming a specific COVID 19 crisis management team exclusive for this marginalized community that would address new issues and closely monitor all the latest developments in a post pandemic Pakistan. Steps should also been taken in doing proper consensus for the community to get a better grip on the facts and figures. Only when correct facts and figures will be published, then the community can be helped in all aspects. A need for transgender representation in the government is also an integral need that could actually give this vulnerable community a voice.