A South African university has created a first-of-its-kind safe space for transgender people to access healthcare.
Johannesburg’s Wits University has launched the Reproductive Health Institute, a clinic that will be paid for with funds from USAID — the United States Agency for International Development, according to a press release.
USAID is funding the project as part of an initiative to improve healthcare access for marginalized communities in South Africa, Blavity reports.
The goal of the dedicated clinic is to remove the stigma and prejudice transgender people often face while trying to use healthcare services in South Africa.
As a trans woman, South African Tiny Williams says she has had negative experiences in South African public hospitals. She always felt uncomfortable when she needed healthcare services.
“When I go there asking for treatment, some they start gossiping about you, laughing at you and the way you are that this person is gay,” Williams told ENCA.
Williams’ impressions of the Wits clinic were positive and she says she instantly felt comfortable.
“Within five minutes I am done with everything and there is no criticism about the way I am,” she added.
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The dedicated transgender clinic is a first for South Africa, where the rights of transgender people are protected by the constitution.
In 1996, South Africa became the first country in the world to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation as part of its constitution.
This means that South African courts can intervene to prevent and punish unfair discrimination and harassment against people who identify as transgender.
The Johannesburg clinic is the flagship among four transgender clinics in the country that opened simultaneously as part of this initiative in October 2019.
The three others are open in East London, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town, according to the press release.