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Adversely Impacted By Lockdown, Transgender Community Gets No Aid Under Ehsas Programme

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The six-week-long lockdown in Islamabad and Rawalpindi has been extended further to curb the spread of coronavirus. While many poverty-stricken communities have managed to find out a way to continue their daily work, the marginalised transgender community has been left in a lurch.

The transgender community members say that the services sector was their major source of income and due to curfew-like lockdown, they are starving and forced to vacate their shelters due to non-payment of rents.

Nadeem Kashish, head SAFFAR [an Islamabad-based non-governmental organisation] when approached, said six-month long curfew-like lockdown has been nothing short of a disaster for the marginalised transgender community.

Kashish said there are at least 3,000 transgender persons living in Islamabad and around 5,000 in Rawalpindi. Most of them live in confined quarters in segregated parts of the cities’ slums and make a living while working at homes as domestic helpers; performing at public events such as wedding and pleading from commercial markets as beggars.

The trans-community rights defender said that a ban on public events and closure of commercial markets have robbed these marginalised people of their major sources of income.

Kashish says this scenario was nothing short of a ‘nightmare’ where they have been pushed close to food and shelters, adding that many members of his community are being forced to vacate their flats due to non-payment of rents.

The trans rights defender said that despite the government’s announcement of a huge financial package for the downtrodden communities, the transgender community feels left out as it has received no aid under Prime Minister’s Ehsas Programme.

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“Why is there no separate allocation of funds for transgender community despite the fact that the country-wide lockdown has deprived hundreds of thousands of transgenders from bread and butter?”, he asked.

The transgender representative said that they have provided data of 300 trans-women to the government. We made sure to provide sanitize environment with social distancing [during ration distribution]. “But merely providing them ration is not a long term solution.”

“How can we manage our house rent, when we have been in self-isolation for one-and-a-half month? Our landlords do not understand the problem, and keep asking us for rent,” says Shazia Choti, a transgender person living in a rented flat in Rawalpindi, along with 11 other community members.

“We are 12 trans-persons sharing a portion of a multi-story building for Rs20,000 per month and our sources of income were event performances and begging from commercial markets, which is no longer our source of income after the lockdown”, she says.

“We are citizens of this country and have some basic rights,” Shazia reminded the government representatives.

Aisha Mughal, trans-community representative at the HR ministry, confirmed that there was no separate allocation of funds for trans community. However, Mughal added that the ministry was facilitating different organisations for financial support to the transgender community.

Aisha said the HR ministry in collaboration with UNDP is conducting a need assessment survey of trans-community and after its completing, support will be announced.

Minister of Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, when asked, responded that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) Islamabad and the ministry of Health are looking after the financial as well as medical affairs of all citizens.

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