Third gender waits for identity, health care

Health Karnataka

The third gender category has not been included in hospital forms, forcing them to choose between male and female.

Transgender persons struggle with healthcare in government hospitals, as there is no third-gender category on healthcare papers. They cannot avail of any promised benefits.

Jagadamba, a 67-year-old transwoman, said, “A lot of things have got better for us but healthcare stands exactly where it was years ago.” She added, “I don’t have a health card. I go to the hospital and they  happily mark me a male without even asking me if I want to be marked as a male. Forget about healthcare, they don’t even understand what the meaning of identity is.”

Sana Suman, a trans-woman working for Swatantra organization, said, “No health cards were ever issued to us. We were looking forward to the benefits and healthcare insurance schemes promised under the Karnataka State policy for transgendersbut nothing ever came to us.”

The third-gender category was introduced in the NALSA vs. Union of India case, 2014, by the Supreme Court. The Karnataka State Transgender Persons Policy, 2017, also says that those who do not identify as either of the genders can avail of the third gender category. The policy assures transgender persons of health, social security, employment, education and housing benefits.

Hospitals have not been given any instructions from government for adding third-gender category according to Sowmya N. Gowda, chief administrative officer, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute. “I also think government must start giving third-gender specified ID cards to the people who fall in that bracket for proper implementation,” she added.

Arogya Soudha cashless hospitalisation form showing Male and Female in gender bracket

Rajajinagar Government hospital, Govindarajnagar Referral hospital, Mysore Road Victoria hospital were among the government hospitals that confirmed that they  don’t have a third-gender bracket in their outpatient department (OPD) forms.

Explaining how transgender people are assigned their legal status, Dr. Hari Kiran, final year senior resident, Department of Endocrinology, Ramaiah Medical Hospital, explained, “There is a protocol apart from self-identification to be identified as a trans-woman or a trans-man. You see a psychiatrist and after the diagnosis comes out, endocrinologist starts the treatment which is mainly hormone therapy.”

Amarinder Pal Singh Tung, advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court, said, “The failure of Karnataka government to implement the Supreme Court NALSA vs. Union of India judgement may invite a contempt petition under Section 2(a) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971. I think contempt petitions must be filed against all other state governments including Karnataka who haven’t done anything in this regard so far. Justice delayed is justice denied.”