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4 March, 2021 02:28:53 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 March, 2021 02:32:51 PM

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TRANSGENDER HEALTH IN COVID-19 IN BANGLADESH

MOHAMMAD MUSHFIQUL HAQUE MUKIT
TRANSGENDER HEALTH IN COVID-19 IN BANGLADESH

The people of the Hijra (transgender) community are living with serious wounds. They are excluded from the family, society, in fact, for living and survival, they have to find and make their own community.

This society not for their own, nor even earth. They are deeming one single body but why God made different. Rani Hijra said, “We are queen above the navel, below the navel we are just like the actress. We always have to survive by acting for living.” In other words they best explain about themselves, we are actress at the top and actor at the bottom. The word has in-depth pathetic meaning and which is intense excruciating.

In Bangladesh, there has been hijras (transgender) communities with their own local identities, rituals, and customs. It is not easy to describe the problems of hijras, since both individual identity and cultural characteristics constitute the idea. In Bangladesh, Hijras identify themselves as individuals who are not only socially excluded from male or female questionable genitals but also proclaim themselves as individuals unable to have sexual sensation.

However, a historic decision taken by the Bangladesh government in 2013, and recognizing the Hijra's as the third gender, and this recognition guarantees their rights, allowing them in all government documents, including passports, to describe their gender as 'Hijra'. Approximately 1.5 million transgender people residing in Bangladesh, have set up the first transgender Islamic school to ensure a better future. It was a first in South Asia, and experts and advocates of rights say it could make a marginalized group feel more welcome. Furthermore, besides education needs to think about their problems with health and sanitations.

In spite of that, their problems do not end there. During the time of COVID-19, financially, mentally and even with food, it was a great threat. In tough times none can support to rescue them.

Systematic discrimination has affected access to primary health care for the hijra individuals during the lockdown. The medical system is also over-pressurized, with difficulties for individuals belonging to the group, such as testing and obtaining care. Because the wards are divided into male-female binaries, members of the hijra community have no center. Reason of prejudice, absence of legal identity papers, and patient rights violations in healthcare facilities, they are also unable to access medical health care.

They are prevented from visiting health facilities by their fear of being stigmatized and ridiculed, and this puts them at increased risk of not being screened or treated for COVID-19. The biased views of health care professionals may also discourage patients from seeking timely treatment and care for COVID-19, exacerbating their mental health risks.

BMC Springer research recently reported that about 80 percent of the population of sex differentiation disorders (DSD) obtained health services from government health facilities in Bangladesh, where the overall success rate was less than 50 percent in accessing healthcare services. The DSD population has reported a variety of reasons for failures to access healthcare services, including unfriendly contact with non-clinical hospital personnel, unfriendly interaction with doctors, public fear as general individuals do not want to associate with a DSD person, undesirable excess public interest in DSD individuals, and restriction to male or female patients of the treatment opportunities of hospitals. He most frequently recorded cause was physicians' unfriendly contact (50.27%), followed by unwanted excess public interest in DSD individuals (50.16 percent).

With regard to fear, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, the psychological reactions of Bangladesh to the COVID-19 lockdown are possibly worse among minority groups. There is a need for widespread national education programs, both to raise recognition and confidence in mental illness and to create improvement in mental health, and to minimize prejudice against people with mental illness.

In all districts and sub-district regions, particularly for minority groups of people, the government should set up mental health cells. A free therapy service should be initiated by government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charitable organizations, and youth-led programs to support hijra individuals suffering from mental illness and anxiety.

Hijra individuals have a well-established socio-cultural system of their own and are an integral part of Bangladeshi society. Many hijras live on the very low-status margins of society and non-hijra members of mainstream society fail to establish social ties with the hijra and often prevent access to social structures, facilities and services by the hijra.

They face extreme discrimination in social, economic, cultural and political activities such as health, housing, education, jobs, immigration, law, and anywhere that is incapable of placing them into male or female gender categories, as with transgender people in most of the world. Being beyond this standard has kept them from placing themselves with human potential and stability in a greater society. Hijra, as the people of Bangladesh and a part of the diversity of society, have sex.

Writer is from Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University.

Freelance Data Journalist & Researcher.

e-mail: [email protected]

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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