Today we recall the outstanding debts with transgender women rights to recognize their gender identity and access to proper health services for them to live fulfilling and secure lives.
Transgender women are a key population that faces structural barriers:
a. They battle greater risks and vulnerability due to the situation of criminalization laws in many countries. Morocco, for example has a restrictive legal framework that criminalizes sex work. The Penal Code punishes prostitution with imprisonment and fines, and anyone who solicits or profits from prostitution can also face criminal charges. This legal framework makes it difficult for transwomen sex workers to work safely and seek protection from the law, entangling their right to health.
Furthermore, the law does not recognize transgender identities or provide legal protection for trans people. This leaves transwomen sex workers vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and gender-based violence from clients, pimps, and law enforcement officials.
b. They face a significant amount of stigma and discrimination due to their gender identity and occupation, subjected to verbal and physical abuse, harassment, and exclusion from social and economic opportunities.
Testimonials of transwomen’s network shared with W4GF a transwomen’s reflects on this situation: “The police make us feel vulnerable because they know sex work is criminalized. They often arrest us without laying any charges and demand bribes. They can strip us naked in front of other officers, beat us up, or subject us to police brutality.” (May 15th, 2023)
c. Due to their marginalized status, they often struggle to access education, housing, and healthcare and employment opportunities. It’s particularly concerning the lack of access for proper treatment of HIV and TB, as many medical professionals are not trained to deal with transgender issues. According to UNAIDS transgender women are more vulnerable to HIV, they have 49 times more probability to live with HIV than no transgender adults. In many countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America the lack of disaggregated data leads to blind decision-making when it comes to HIV and TB programs.
Therefore, transgender women are a key population who deserves to be addressed. This is why it’s necessary that they take a seat, a voice and vote in National Dialogues and Country Coordinating Mechanisms where the planning, designing and implementation of TB and HIV responses take place.
We remind States that community engagement is top priority in the Global Fund granting cycle 2023-2025 and this means including civil society organizations and women in all their diversity must be in the dialogues.
Ignoring transgender women’s right to participate the responses to diseases to which they are particularly vulnerable (HIV, TB) is another form of violence and discrimination. It’s urgent, not only to ensure gender transformative responses, but to improve healthcare outcomes, promote human rights and social justice.