By Bustop TV
In Zimbabwe, to access public services, one is required to present their national identity documents, a move that has made life difficult for the local transgender community.
According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, national documentation is at the core of citizens’ enjoyment of basic human rights and freedoms. Failure to possess accurate and affirming documents can have far reaching consequences and block opportunities.
Transgender is a term used to describe someone whose gender identity or expressions differ from societal expectations based on the sex that person was assigned at birth.
When government-imposed lockdown restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic came into effect in 2020, the transgender community had difficulties travelling from one place to another.
During the level 4 lockdown, citizens were required to carry their national identification documents and valid passes when travelling.
Most transgender people in Zimbabwe lack documentation that matches their appearance and gender identity after they transition, which is the process of altering or affirming one’s sex and or gender. Acquiring national identity documents in Zimbabwe is a tedious process, with the government constantly facing a shortage of materials to issue the documents.
Accessing public services like the Covid-19 vaccines and other basic health care services, registering to vote for the 2023 presidential elections, and accessing funds at banks and money remittances remain challenging for transgender people.
The trans community has openly come out to plead for re-documentation that affirms their gender identities, particularly calling for national identity cards and passports to be updated.
Stewie Le Savage (25), a transwoman from Bulawayo, told Bustop TV that it has been difficult for her and other trans people to get inoculated against Covid-19 because their identity documents do not match their gender identities or appearances, and those documents must be presented to health care workers.
“I didn’t go for the vaccines at vaccination centres because of this,” she said. “I fail to visit and access services at places like clinics, especially if the place is not well sensitized for people like us.”
Stewie says most of her friends are unvaccinated because they fear discrimination.
“As trans people we experience a lot of difficulties, but I ended up ignoring every criticism, mockery and segregation and went for my vaccination, but I have friends who are yet to receive their vaccination jabs because of the abuse we encounter in the public,” she said.
Trans Research Education, Advocacy and Training (TREAT) finance officer Wandile Dhliwayo also bemoaned the challenges the trans people face when they want to access services at border posts and at police roadblocks.
“Transitioning is very hard because you stop matching the identity of your documents. That makes it hard to access any services that are gender-related, be it banks, ecocash etc. At banks I usually face problems with tellers because I appear as a woman, but my ID indicates that I am a man,” Dhliwayo said.
“Most of the time we are now working with certain banks that understand us and sensitize their environment. We build a relationship because they know the situation on the ground,” she said.
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