Defending its blood donor selection guidelines, the Centre has said that the exclusion of transgender people, gays, and female sex workers was based on scientific evidence.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, through a preliminary affidavit in a petition challenging the blood donor guidelines which imposes a blanket ban on transgender people, gays, and female sex workers, told the apex court that the exclusion was done based on scientific evidence.
The health ministry said it categorized transgenders, gays, and female sex workers in the category of individuals at risk, arguing that scientific evidence clearly shows that they possessed a higher prevalence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and C and other Transfusion-Transmitted Infections (TTIs).
The government in its argument in the Supreme Court (SC) said that the entire objective of a safe Blood Transfusion System (BTS) is to ensure the health and safety of the recipient of the donated blood.
”Every effort has to be made to ensure that the recipient is shielded from an unfortunate result, especially since the consequences can be irreversible. Thus, even on the balance of the individual rights of the blood donor versus the right of the recipient, the right of the recipient to receive a safe blood transfusion far outweighs the right of an individual to donate blood,” the government told the apex court.
It further said that the integrity of the BTS is paramount from a public health perspective and constitutional courts should defer to the judgment of domain experts.
The development comes after the government filed an affidavit to this effect in response to a notice issued by the Supreme Court in March 2021 on a petition filed by Thangjam Santa Singh alias Santa Khurai, a member of the transgender community, who contended that the exclusion of transgender persons, gay men, and female sex workers from being blood donors and permanently prohibiting them from donating blood solely based on their gender identity and sexual orientation was completely arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory as well as unscientific.
The petition also alleged that such a Category was based on negative stereotypes which amounted to discrimination under Articles 14 and 15 of the constitution.
The government argued that the issues raised by the petitioner come under the domain of the executive, aided by medical scientific and other technical experts, guided by evidence as well as their own professional experience, and as such, the issues raised ought to be judged with a view from public health perspective instead of judging it only from an individual rights perspective.
The government’s affidavit further informed that the category of persons excluded under the guidelines are those considered at risk for HIV and Hepatitis B or C infection.
TRANSGENDERS AND SEX WORKERS CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE FOR TIMELY TREATMENT
Population groups of transgenders, gays and female sex workers continue to remain marginalized groups in the social fabric and find it difficult to seek timely treatment due to associated stigma, even when they are infected. Due to this, the risk of transmission from these population groups further increases. There is also a high risk of transmission of new emerging diseases from these groups, as a higher risk was recently seen in the case of monkeypox (affecting most gays).