Santa Khurai is a 'Nupi Maanbi', a trans woman from the Northeastern state of Manipur, and secretary of the All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association, a state-level body fighting for the rights of the indigenous community in the state.
On Saturday, March 20, Khurai tweeted about the incident where a transgender woman, Milan Thangam, was going through surgery in a hospital in Bengaluru and had an urgent requirement for blood. Sadly, her friends and members from the trans community were rendered helpless since the laws bar people from the LGBTQ community, gay men and sex workers from donating blood.
"I got a call on the same day I had tweeted about the incident. The transgender woman was getting operated on and needed blood to complete the surgery. Two of her friends desperately started looking for blood donors— it was a new city and they were requesting auto drivers, students and people on the street to help but were unable to find any.
They were willing to pitch in but could not because of the guidelines. Lastly, after several failed attempts, a woman came to the rescue and donated blood," Khurai tells The Logical Indian.
She says that she has been encountering such harrowing experiences told by the community members.
"The hospital authorities especially the ones handling the blood bank have harassed the transgender persons. Derogatory remarks on the character and on their orientation have been humiliating. This is the highest form of discrimination! If one is not treated as a human, what is the purpose of laws and welfare schemes?" questions the 46-year-old activist.
"Anyone is eligible to donate blood and save a life but not transgender persons, female sex workers and men having sex with men. There may be people including cisgender and heterosexuals engaging in unsafe sex but no health care authority interrogates them on their sexual behaviour. One should not pick an isolated incident and stereotype the entire community," she says sternly.
Earlier in the month, Khurai had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the guidelines. She said that the rules were discriminatory on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The apex court, taking cognisance of the concern, has sought a response from the Centre, the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) and National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC).
"The Court accepted my petition and I am waiting for the second round of hearing from the Health Ministry and the other two organisations. As a leader of the community, I have been hearing about the harassment and discrimination that the members are being subjected to. The position I am in, I had to do something about it," Khurai explains.
She says that it is crucial for the laws to be holistic. Several studies and community engagement has to be done before formulating policies or introducing welfare programmes.
On being asked if society has progressed in terms of inclusivity, Khurai says, "If there is progress we can see the change. But sadly, that is not the case yet. For instance, if a tranSC sgender person is given a benefit or provision, it is usually in the lowest ranks. Whether a constable or handling construction waste. Certain state governments offering sex reassignment surgeries for free but it is a complicated life-changing procedure and who is ensuring that the best surgeons are appointed to do it?"
She points out the lack of opportunities which leads members of the community to resort to marginalised activities to earn a living.
"We should have representatives from the community from each state at the Centre. We need to have a transgender commission that holds independent power than a council at the top level. For every developmental activity, community participation is foremost. I want the guidelines to eliminate prohibition. I am tired of demanding something that is my right! We want to contribute towards the betterment of society and change can trickle down through the laws. If there is a law, there will be action and a budget to support it. Sensitisation and awareness programme can be scaled," Khurai tells The Logical Indian.