The 52 day lockdown in India announced by Narendra Modi on 22nd March, and extended thrice already, has been the harshest lockdown across the world. The ill planned lockdown has caused immense hardships to the poor and marginalised, leading to mass exodus of migrant workers in what is being described as the biggest exodus since India-Pakistan partition.
Heartbreaking images and videos of migrant workers and their plight are being beamed over Television channels and Newspapers. However, the plight of the LGBTQ community has largely been ignored by most media channels and print media. The trans community has been hit the hardest, with many having lost their sole livelihood source – begging or sex work. Governments too seem blind to their plight and no ‘packages’ that are being announced even acknowledge their presence or hardships. For many gay, lesbians and gender-non conforming individuals too, the lockdown has forced them to spend time with unsupportive families, exposing them to both physical and mental violence.
In the past few days, media has reported about two suicides from two different cities bringing to attention the difficulties that members of the LGBTQ community are facing.
On 12th May, PTI reported the suicide of a 38 year old HIV positive transgender woman from Malvani area of suburban Malad, Mumbai. The trans person hanged herself from the ceiling fan of her room, probably due to loss of livelihood and access to her medicines in the lockdown due to the Covid19 pandemic. Mumbai is the worst affected city in India and has one of the strictest lockdowns. The report mentions that she had exhausted her grocery stock, and was struggling to make ends meet. The non-availability of ART medicines were another factor.
A 2nd case of suicide was reported on May 15th from Goa, where a 21 year old student named Anjana Harish killed herself. The report by EdexLive mentions that on March 13 in a live Facebook video she had accused her family of physical and mental abuse. Anjana was from Kannur in Kerala and was openly queer. Her family wanted to “cure her bisexuality” for which she had been confined to a mental health centre. “I really do not know what to say and what to do. The medicine makes me dizzy and I am not able to see or talk properly. I’ve become robotic,” the report quotes her from the live video.
Few days before the lockdown began, Anjana had come to Goa with three of her friends. She later hanged herself from a tree in Goa. Her friends have blamed the suicide on her family. “She was subject to domestic abuse and a lot of mental torture. She was quite disturbed,” a friend of her said.
While these two cases might have got reported in the media, there are bound to be innumerable more cases of abuse and struggle that have gone unreported. There have been a few crowdfunding initiatives to help provide ration and other necessities to trans communities. Organisations like Ondede have had to file petition in Karnataka High Court for government relief. But beyond these individual efforts, no governments have tried to reach out to the community, or address their needs in this lockdown fiasco.