#HumanRightsWeek presents us with an opportunity to share how we have been working alongside our country partners and trans focal points in the region to support the transgender and gender non conforming community and closely monitor the evolving situation presented by COVID-19. Over the next week we present our findings from our work over the last ten months which demonstrate an urgent need to guarantee the inclusion of transgender and gender non conforming people in efforts to #RecoverBetter from COVID-19 and more broadly. We call on the governments, our development and non development partners and the public, to #StandupforHumanRights and fulfill the promise of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs to ensure
no one is left behind. This year was like no other, on the 11 th of March 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. At APTN we knew that this would have wide ranging impacts on the lives of people in the trans and gender diverse community and the critical work in supporting trans folx across Asia and the Pacific region.
As our findings will demonstrate, the COVID-19 pandemic has starkly revealed the vast social, economic and health disparities experienced by trans and gender diverse communities even further. Now more than ever an urgent shift is required to invest in trans and gender diverse populations. It is long overdue for governments and public institutions to recognise and prioritize the experiences and needs of those on the margins of society to ensure all under their duty of care have access to quality and stigma free social protection and healthcare systems and infrastructure.
The time is now
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#WorldAIDSDay2020 “#GlobalSolidaritySharedResponsibility” Trans people are 49 times more likely to acquire HIV than the general adult population. Exclusion and experiences of stigma and discrimination in health care settings leads to a delay or avoidance in seeking health care. Increased engagement in high risk informal work sectors such as sex work due to widespread employment discrimination, increases transgender people’s vulnerability to HIV. Due to the high rates of #HIV and other underlying chronic #health conditions in our community, trans people are vulnerable to exposure and risk of #COVID-19 infection.
Our data highlighted that 88% (n=2359) of recipients of the COVID-19 Community Support Fund reported a loss of income, reduced income or were forced to go on unpaid leave. Historical systemic and systematic discrimination against trans people stemming directly from harmful laws criminalising their identities and sexual behaviour and a lack of legal gender recognition across Asia and the Pacific region has further impacted trans people’s access to financial and health security throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “Aside from access to healthcare, a major blow to this community has been financial – with lockdown measures in place, transgender people have been unable to meet their financial needs without placing themselves at risk – either of contracting the disease or of brutal treatment from the police who have enforcing the lockdown rules. HOPE Pakistan
In #India, #Indonesia, the #Philippines, #Nepal, and #SriLanka, our partners reported that many in the #trans #community were excluded from social protection schemes aimed at ameliorating hardships during COVID-19, due to their gender identity. Given that many are unable to change citizenship and national documents to reflect their gender identity, the linking of social protection schemes through national identification documents meant that many trans people who were not able to produce ‘authenticated’ documents could not access government support and relief efforts. “Transwomen are not a priority for support in the COVID-19 pandemic. The government of the Republic of Indonesia generally prioritizes citizens who are registered as poor families in Indonesia. Transwomen, most of them are not registered as poor families because they do not have identity cards as citizens. GWL- Ina, Indonesia – https://www.facebook.com/GWL.INA Stay Tuned for APTN’s Full Trans Resilience Report: Stories of Hope, Pain, and Survival from the Trans Movement During the #COVID19 #Pandemic, which will be released on 10 December 2020. weareAPTN #StandingUpForTransRights #HumanRightsWeek #HumanRights2020 #HumanRightsWeek2020 #RecoverBetter #WorldAIDSDay2020 #GlobalSolidaritySharedResponsibility #AsiaPacific
Our partner in the #Philippines, LakanBini has been monitoring human rights violations against the trans community throughout the COVID -19 Pandemic and shared disturbing reports of the unlawful and cruel treatment of trans and LGBI people by state actors who were accused of violating lockdown and curfew measures. These included ridicule, humiliation and violence. “The national government put out a lockdown law without specifying rules, specifications are left to the local government who have created their own punitive measures. One trans woman who was caught violating curfew had their head shaved. Also, a Filipino politician tried to force LGBT+ people to kiss and ‘sexy dance’ as punishment for breaching coronavirus lockdown.” LakanBini, Philippines
Our data highlighted that 44.17% (n=973) of recipients of the COVID-19 Community Support fund reported not having access to basic necessities (hygiene kit, hormones, food, shelter, PPE) as a result of COVID-19.For partners providing emergency relief supplies such as food, PPEs and medicine, travelling during curfew and lockdown presented numerous challenges. Sourcing PPEs and hormones were particularly difficult given the scarcity of supply and price hikes. Risk of exposure to COVID-19 for staff was also a concern. In places like Indonesia where the trans community lives in small, overcrowded areas, staff had to take extra precaution in order to deliver supplies. Staff from Blue Diamond Society in Nepal also reported threats and harassment from the public whilst delivering essential supplies. “The organisation and some staff/volunteers have received threats and people have even attempted to stop us from providing our relief support because bigotry has increased during this time.” Blue Diamond Society, Nepal
Across the region, almost universally our partners reported the increasing impacts on the community’s mental health. Isolation from their friends and peers has increased feelings of loneliness, stress and depression. Coupled with fear of exposure to COVID-19, reduced or loss of income and reduced access to gender-affirming care, our partners Unity 4 Change, Blue Diamond Society from Nepal and Wajood Society from Pakistan reported that this has led to an increase in the number of trans people committing suicide as well as increases in suicidal ideation. “The suicide rate is increasing during lockdown. Many of them are facing violence from within the home. Due to this 7-month lockdown, 13 LGBTI people committed suicide among them 2 were lesbian and 2 were transgender man.” Unity 4 Change, Nepal
Startling reports were sent in by our partners of governments using the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of further stifle and limit the rights of transgender people. Our partner GWL-INA in Indonesia reported that the Government of #Indonesia was using lockdown and limited movement restrictions to attempt to force through new harmful criminal codes restricting access to sexual and reproductive health care, expanding punitive laws limiting freedoms and sexual rights of LGBTI people and expanding blasphemy laws. Yet, COVID-19 has limited trans activists’ capacity to engage in further advocacy. “There is a current bill that contains articles that will violate the rights of women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as freedom of speech and association. At this time of COVID-19, parliamentarians are secretly pushing for this bill to be discussed and approved given that demonstrations and/or rallies are not allowed.” GWL-INA, Indonesia
You can now download the APTN’s Full Trans Resilience Report: Stories of Hope, Pain, and Survival from the Trans Movement During the #COVID19 #Pandemic.