Authored by Dr. Pooja Hittalamani and Mr. Shubhendu Akalwadi , Dharwad, Karnataka
India or for the matter at hand, any country, cannot be termed as strong, independent and self-serving if one section of the society or a class of people are still struggling to exercise basic human rights. The very same inalienable rights which is bestowed upon an individual, irrespective of ones sexuality or gender, in order to protect their dignity and well-being.
The most vulnerable class of the society, LGBT community have been suffering in almost all walks of life due to the conservative mind set in society. No amount of sensitisation, awareness can bring about the necessary change in the thought process of the people, unless the same conviction is shown in their attitude and behaviour towards that particular group of people. Supreme Court has deliberated and decriminalised Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), but the same needs to be addressed and enforced to the fullest.
We spoke to people from the Transgender community in Dharwad regarding their access to contraception and other sexual and reproductive healthcare. After hearing them out, we realised how difficult it gets to access basic health facilities just because of the stigma that society associates with people of different gender identities.
The family planning services provided at public healthcare facilities have long been concentrating on contraception only for married couples. The question then arises is, what about the unmarried young people who are sexually active and need access to contraceptive care as well? How will they be protected from unintended pregnancies or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)?
Apart from this, the communities like Transgender people, who are also at a high risk of developing STIs also need to be protected by giving them access to good quality sexual and reproductive healthcare. This generally becomes difficult to access because of the stigma associated with their gender identity or sexual preferences. Transgender people need to be given more opportunities by making the facilities more approachable and by inculcating the indiscriminate practices among the health care workers.
This can help them be more comfortable while they approach the health facility for guidance on safe sex practices and protection from life-threatening STIs. The legislation might change, the rules and regulations might change, the actual change will however happen only when the person going for healthcare experiences the change. There’s a very long way to travel and reach the destination but, the changes we make on the way to the destination is what will matter the most. Only when we let everyone cherish their shade of VIBGYOR with pride, will we reach our destination!