Lack of hospitals, surgeons deprive transgenders of surgery

City Health

Karnataka yet to provide subsidized Sex Re-assignment Surgery (SRS) for transgender communities after the Karnataka state transgender policy gets state cabinet nod.

Surbhi Shah

Murali, a.k.a. Manali has only two hospitals to consider for her Sex Re-assignment Surgery (SRS) as the other hospitals are expensive. She is still waiting for the government to implement the Karnataka State Transgender Policy that will provide her the financial assistance for SRS in selected hospitals.

“As the society is still in the process of accepting transgender people in offices, my only source of income was begging. SRS was a dream for me but I couldn’t afford it. I had only two options left. Victoria Hospital and M.S. Ramaiah Hospital which provided free or subsidized facilities,” said Manali. She added that the cost of pre-surgery psychiatric counseling was too high so she was unable to undergo the entire procedure.  

Sex Re-assignment Surgery or Gender Re-assignment Surgery (GRS) is a medical process where the physical appearance and the sexual orientation of the transgender are altered according to their preference. The approximate cost of the SRS in India ranges from Rs 2-8 lakh depending on the type of surgery.

As there are limited number of doctors in these two hospitals, getting an appointment and the surgery date is difficult. Currently, there are five plastic surgeons in Victoria Hospital and two in M.S. Ramaiah.

Dr. Ramesha, plastic surgeon, Victoria Hospital said, “We get 50 to 70 cases yearly on an average for the surgery, and it has increased after the section 377 decision. The number of doctors capable of performing the surgery is also less which makes it all the more difficult.”

SRS consists of many steps, with counseling being the first step. After the person is found to be mentally fit for undergoing the surgery, the next step is advised. There are a number of doctors from re-constructive plastic surgeons, gynecologists, urologists to psychiatrists that are required to perform the surgery.

Transgenders are fighting for their identity as they struggle to get the SRS.

Dr Daya, Mahabodhi Arogya Seva Kendra, said, “Money is a huge barrier between these people (transgender) and their dream to transform themselves to fit well within the society. Many transgender community members have proposed the government to grant free SRS facilities or at least subsidized, but they are waiting for the same, as only two hospitals in Bangalore provide the affordable services.”

The State Cabinet has approved the Karnataka State Transgender Policy in 2017. In the policy, it is mentioned that the government will provide financial assistance for SRS in selected government hospitals.

Dr. Daya added, “Undergoing the surgery is a big step for any person. It involves high level of psychiatric counseling and only after they get the certificate from the psychologist, are they allowed to proceed with the surgery. It becomes a matter of respect for them (transgenders) to get recognized in the society and to get their rights.” The Supreme Court in 2014 had granted the transgenders equal and legal rights after recognizing them as ‘third gender’ in a landmark decision in National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) vs. Union of India.