In a bid to safeguard the LGBTQ+ community and ensure that the basic human rights of this community are not compromised due to the COVID-19 crisis, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday issued fresh guidelines in this regard.
The human rights body has suggested a separate 24x7 toll free helpline number for the LGBTQI+ community. "A separate helpline number may be set up to provide support in different regional languages for coping with violence, abuse, health and mental health issues etc," the NHRC said in its fresh guidelines.
The NHRC has directed the Centre and the state governments to ensure there is no discrimination in the availability of essential health services at the Primary Health Centres, Community Health Centres, Mohalla clinics, and quarantine centres against the persons belonging to this community.
"Ensure uninterrupted availability of anti-retroviral treatment (ART), HIV testing, hormonal treatment (HRT) and gender affirming treatments including mental health treatments/therapies and counselling for LGBTQI+ community through all districts and local hospitals and medical health centres even during the pandemic," the NHRC said.
It added that the healthcare professionals and staff should be sensitised about the specific needs of the LGBTQI+ community in order to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
The NHRC has directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and all the state governments that all relief measures and welfare schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana etc, should take into account gender diversity and vulnerabilities of LGBTQI+ community especially in terms of eligibility requirements like ID proof, and ensure that transgender and intersex persons are fully covered under these schemes.
The human rights body has also backed the universalisation of the public distribution system to ensure availability of food and ration for the LGBTQ+ community irrespective of identity documents.
"The government may provide appropriate financial support to the economically vulnerable section of the LGBTQI+ community who have lost their livelihood due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown," the NHRC said.
The NHRC has asked the government to ensure that there is no discrimination and abuse in the process of incarceration of transgender and intersex persons in prison during the pandemic.
"The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown have disproportionately impacted the LGBTQI+ community. The lockdown has gravely affected the livelihood of the community especially for those who earn from sex work and begging," the human rights body said.