ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Morality and Mortality

COVID-19 and India’s Sexual Hierarchy

Morality and Mortality

The COVID-19 pandemic and its concomitant socio-economic shocks have severely affected the lives of sex workers and members of the transgender community. This article examines how the visibility of such sexual minorities in public spaces has been perceived as a threat to public decency and morality. It highlights the exclusionary pressures they face from the state and community, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Overcrowded housing, financial precarity, and a reduction in demand for their services place them at higher risk of infection and starvation, while political and social exclusion restricts their access to government services.

 

Crises expose truths about belonging and exclusion in communities. As the COVID-19 pandemic and its concomitant socio-economic sho­cks rage in India, it is evident that decisions about who receives healthcare and economic benefits are political and tend to reflect social hierarchies. Much has been written about the ways in which the pandemic exposes structural inequality—racial, ethnic, and gendered—in nations, but what about those who are perceived as outsiders even within their own borders (Kesar et al 2021; Anyane-Yeboa et al 2020)?

Over the last few decades, the concept of sexual citizenship has entered academic and public discourse. Persistent engagement by LGBTQ+ activists and sex workers’ collectives has pushed through reforms to decriminalise their existences. Yet, in the deeply heteronormative and patriarchal Indian society, one axis along which citizenship is arr­anged is a sexual hierarchy that punishes those who deviate from the sexual norms that govern the collective. Focusing on sex workers and the trans­gender commu­nity in India, this article will exp­lore how COVID-19 has both exposed and exacerbated the social and political exclusion of sexual minorities.

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Updated On : 16th May, 2021

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