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Humans

A struggle for identity in Pakistan

July 27th, 2016
in:Humans
by:Shadi Khan Saif
located in:Afghanistan, Pakistan
tags:Afghanistan, discrimination, Pakistan, Trans Action Alliance (TAA), transgender

Pakistan often makes international news for unsightly human rights abuses. The nation caught many by surprise with two rather progressive news events last month.

Firstly, one of the four provinces in Pakistan set aside funds worth some $ 2 million for the welfare of the marginalized transgender community. This has never happened before in this country of over 180 million. The step was taken by the northwestern Khyber Pakthunkhwa province known to be home to the devote Muslim ‘Pakhtunes’.

This was followed by bolder move by a group of religious scholars in the country’s biggest Punjab province who issued a one-of-a-kind religious decree approving marriage with and among transgender people. This decree states that a transgender person with ‚visible physical features‘ similar to that of a male/ female can marry those with similar signs of the opposite sex.

These back-to-back bold moves towards recognition of the rights of the persecuted transgender community were greeted with surprise, disapproval and little acknowledgement by common Pakistanis. For the transgender community itself however, this meant two small steps forward in a long and tiring journey.

The transgender community here argues that considering the social stigma attached to them, they still find it hard to be accepted as ‘normal human beings and equal citizens’ in Pakistan.

In conversation with fairplanet, Neelam, a transgender woman in Pakistan’s southern port city Karachi who goes by first name only, said that these „isolated moves“ do very little to bring positive change in their lives. “Our younger community members will continue to be sexually exploited here and the older ones will be begging on streets”, she lamented.  

Transgender community members are associated with these two trades while some try their luck in music and dance at ceremonies for a small amount of money. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are rampant in this community.

In 2012 the country’s Supreme Court issued a judgment stating transgender individuals will have equal rights, as per the constitution, including the right of inheritance and right to adopt any profession of their choice.

Neelam adds this ruling of the court was too good to be true and implementable in Pakistan. “Let alone the matters of jobs and inheritance, we cannot even receive proper medical services without being laughed at and stigmatized for our very nature,” she added.

Last year alone, in the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, more than 40 transgender individuals were killed and 300 suffered varying forms of brutality and cruelty.

The case of a young transgender Alisha melted many hearts when she was reportedly denied urgent medical aid after being shot by an armed man. She later died from her wounds. Alisha, a member of the Trans Action Alliance (TAA) was shot eight times in an attack on Sunday May 22 but the hospital staff reportedly spent at least an hour deciding whether to treat her in the male or female ward.

After Alisha’s tragic death, a number her friends and colleagues staged a demonstration with the dead body on a street for hours during scorching heat, but not many noticed.

Recalling that sad incident, Zehrish Khan, Monitoring and Evaluating Officer at Khawaja Sara Society (Transgender Society) in Pakistan said with distress that the attitude of the society towards them has not changed.

“Discrimination towards us starts from within our own families, our own parents start disowning us and that is why most of us have left our homes as teenagers to live among like-minded people,” she said.

Transgender people in Pakistan were only issued the Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) in 2012 after having their identities denied for decades. Five years later, an estimated 50, 000 transgender of Pakistan are still demanding their identity.

Article written by:
Shadi Khan Saif
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In 2012 the country’s Supreme Court issued a judgment stating transgender individuals will have equal rights, as per the constitution, including the right of inheritance and right to adopt any profession of their choice.
“Discrimination towards us starts from within our own families, our own parents start disowning us and that is why most of us have left our homes as teenagers to live among like-minded people.”
Transgender people in Pakistan were only issued the Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) in 2012 after having their identities denied for decades.

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