By Manali Joshi
On September 11, 2017, in a relief to thousands of transgender in the state, the Kerala government announced the setting up of exclusive transgender clinics and will begin sex-change surgery in the state-run medical colleges for the first time.
A ray of hope
The step is part of the state government’s various initiatives to bring the marginalised group to the forefront of the society as envisaged in the state transgender policy, unveiled for the first time in the country in 2015.
It has been a pending demand of the transgender community for long to make available facilities for the sensitive, expensive and time-consuming surgery in the state. The government is now planning to introduce a surgical wing exclusively for transgender persons. The idea is to begin such surgical wings in two medical college hospitals. The first wing will come up in Kottayam within one month.
The transgender clinics will function on the first Tuesday of every month. The doctors from general medicine, psychiatry, dermatology, endocrinology and plastic surgery will be attending to the patients at this clinic. Health cards will also be distributed to the transgender persons through the clinics. Apart from this, a para-legal volunteer will also be posted at these clinics to provide legal help for the community members. Three transgender persons have already been selected as the legal volunteers.
Indian healthcare facilities for the community
The transsexuals are a respectable section of modern society. According to the recent estimates, they constitute about 2% of India’s billion person population. However, they are, by and large, the most socially and economically marginalised sections of society in India. They are subjected to series of discriminatory tendencies in attaining their basic rights—one of them being right to health. Transgender persons are the most vulnerable group to the increased risk of different chronic diseases, cancers, sexual health issues like HIV, Syphilis, Sexually Transmitted Infections(STIs) and other mental health problems. It is often observed that surgeons do not possess the required knowledge with respect to the specific conditions and health issues of the transgender. Moreover, they charge high fees for sex reassignment surgeries and hormone treatment surgeries. This situation becomes worse when they are prevented from accessing the basic health facilities due to widespread and deeply entrenched discrimination. They are denied of medical insurance and healthcare facilities in modern society. Consequently, high rates of addiction, depression, anxiety and suicide among male to female transsexuals attest to the psychological burden of discrimination, isolation and victimisation.
What does this decision imply?
The initiative taken by the Kerala government, if executed judicially, can make a huge difference in recognising them as a third gender that has an equal status and the ability to access their basic rights without facing any kind of discrimination. The clinics will help in providing free mental health counselling in relation to suicidal tendencies, discrimination, sexual and physical violence, along with addressing the alcohol and drug abuse among the transgender community.
The clinics will also train the surgeons and the health care service providers to be competent and sensitive in providing health care services to the transgender community. The assigned medical colleges will be able to develop guidelines related to gender transition and sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and monitor the implementation of same. The clinics would help in clarifying the ambiguous legal status of sex reassignment surgery and provide gender transition and SRS services with proper counselling before and after the surgery, at a feasible rate.
It will be a relief for the transgender community as they will be able to cure their health issues with minimal hassle. Such an initiative will be an inspiration for other states too since it boldly addresses an important social issue, which is still considered a taboo in our country.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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