‘Transgender community has the right to healthcare’
The hijra and transgender community in the country face all sorts of obstacles in availing healthcare in the country, if they can get it at all. Concerned persons say that though there are laws in this regard, there is need for specific policy to ensure health services for the hijra/transgender community.
These views were expressed at a virtual roundtable held on Thursday, titled ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights for Transgender Community’. The event was organised by the Shukhi Jibon project, Pathfinder International with assistance from USAID and Prothom Alo as the media partner.
Director general of the department of social services, Sheikh Rafiqul Islam, said the government has undertaken a lot of work for the hijra and transgender community and there is still a lot to be done. He said that this community must be absorbed in the mainstream and there needs to be a change in mindset among the people.
They are victims of all sorts of violence and oppression. They cannot easily avail services at a government or non-government level. At the health centres there is a lack of proper understanding about this community
Director of the health directorate (MBDS) and line director, National AIDS/STD Programme (NASP) Samiul Islam said, services are open to the hijra and transgender people. They can avail service at all government service centre. But there are separate services centres for this community too. The health directorate will ensure that they receive services at all government medical college hospitals.
Director of the family planning directorate (MCH Services) and line director(MC-RAH) Mohammad Sharif said that the concerned quarters of the health department will be informed about inclusion of this community in the mass vaccine against coronavirus from Saturday.
Director of the USAID Shukhi Jibon project and senior country director, Pathfinder International, Caroline Crosbie, said they were working with the government on the sexual and reproductive rights of the hijra and transgender community.
Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum made the opening statement at the roundtable
Adolescent and youth specialist of Pathfinder International’s USAID Shukhi Jibon project, Fatema Shabnam, presented the keynote. She said, there are presently around 10,000 to 50,000 members of the hijra community in the country. The hijra and transgender community are more susceptible to sexual diseases.
They are victims of all sorts of violence and oppression. They cannot easily avail services at a government or non-government level. At the health centres there is a lack of proper understanding about this community. She said specific guidelines were required to provide this community with services.
Line director of the family planning directorate (clinical contraception services delivery), Nurun Nahar Begum, said that as there is no category outside of male or female in the registration book, they simply enter the members of the transgender community in either of the two. So even if they receive services, this is not recorded as services for the transgender since they are not registered accordingly. Guidelines in this regard would make it easier to provide them with services.
Counselor (Gender Diverse People’s Programme, Cox’s Bazar), Lighthouse, and transgender representative, Tanisha Chaity, spoke about her experience in going to get her vaccine. She said that she is categorised as male in her National ID card, but she does not want to be known by that identity. She faced a dilemma about which room to enter to get her vaccine at the centre. She also said that persons of her community don’t easily go for medical treatment. The government has given hijras recognition, she said, but the transgender need recognition too.
Diplomat at the US Embassy in Dhaka, Daniel Buchman, said he had met a diverse range of people in Bangladesh. Many people are working for the rights of various communities, he said.
Project management specialist of population, health, nutrition and education, USAID Bangladesh, Samina Chowdhury, said that though this country had a long history of the hijra and transgender community, they are still marginalised. Yet they have all rights.
Project management specialist of USAID Bangladesh’s democracy and good governance specialist, Sumana Binte Masud, placed stress on mental health for the hijra and transgender community.
Executive director of Bandhu Social Welfare Society, Saleh Ahmed, said the government has provided various facilities for the hijra community. But their dropping out from school must be stemmed and opportunities for their education increased.
Chairperson of the Foundation for Law and Development, Fawzia Karim Firoze, said there is need for a policy to implement the law. There must be specific guidelines regarding the hijra and transgender community at all levels.
Founder and executive director of Lighthouse, Md Harun Or Rashid, said that most members of this community leave their families at a young age and are brought up by the ‘gurus’. If investment is made in the organisations who work with them, the hijra or transgender people would not have to take to the streets. They could get to lead a normal life.
Kanai Sarkar, medical assistant of Bandhu Social Welfare Society, deliberated on his experience about providing medical treatment to members of the hijra and transgender community.
Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury moderated the virtual roundtable.