By: Mahwish Akhtar.
Transgender (also referred to as khusra) reflects a group of people who enjoys the least amount of respect or rights in Pakistan. Due to the controversial nature and typical mindset of people, the subject of Transgender rights in Pakistan is not even discussed in sophisticated circles. Most people do not even consider them as a part of their community; massive rejections are often faced by transgenders in almost all the parts of Pakistan.
According to recent research studies conducted on transgenderism, approximately one out of 50 children are identified with a transgender tendency/ potential. In other words, about 2 percent population of Pakistan is affected by transgenderism.
In our society, transgenders are usually first identified by the families. The community often mistakes them as pre-homosexuals and most Pakistani families become aggressive towards them. For example, strict warnings are given to them to change their attitude and most of them are rejected by their communities and loved ones.
I have often wondered why it is that generally there is hatred for ‘transgender’ in Pakistan. The term means different things to different people. At a very basic it means being born not knowing which gender you belong to.
A myth seems to have formed that they cannot do any work except for sing and dance. I wonder who started this, the downwards spiral of degradation. Now they are not treated as equal, they live in secluded communities with their own kind, often in extreme poverty. Most are uneducated as the notion of a transgender child being brought up in a normal household and studying in a mainstream school is not an acceptable reality.
As Pakistanis, we need to realize that this is not merely a war that these individuals have to fight they are human beings, just like us, and deserve as much of a right to education and these individuals have voices that are not heard by anyone. We need to be the voice that speaks on their behalf, fights for their rights and makes living for them less painful.
Riffie Khan has a Double Master’s degree from Shah Abdul Latif University in Shikarpur in Economics and Political Sciences. However, despite her academic achievements, she has been unable to hold down a job.
In 2003, Khan was forced to leave her job at the National Medical Centre in Karachi, where she worked as front desk officer, because she did not fit in.
Khan is one of many transgender people in the country who suffer in their professional and personal lives due to discrimination. “It’s the educated people that upset me the most,” she says. “When they discriminate against people like me, it hurts even more.”
RIGHTS OF TRANSGENDER
The answer is pretty straightforward. Transgenders and LGBT community are considered as a sign of shame and disgrace in the Pakistani culture. Most of these individuals never get a chance to acquire education in the regular schools due to discriminatory treatment and disgusting attitude of fellow citizens.
Consequently, most of these individuals have no other option, but to make their living by singing and dancing alongside the road or in private parties. Additionally, transgenders are usually not encouraged to live amongst regular mohalla’s. They are bound to establish their own colonies outside of regular communities.
There are several other issues that are faced by transgenders in Pakistan; such as:
- There is no government aid or support system to help these individuals live a normal life.
- Government institutions and other governing bodies are known to harass these individuals.
- In case of any criminal victimization or even sexual harassment, these individuals get no help/ support from the community or government institutions.
- Due to literally no job opportunities and financial security, most members of the transgender community is forced to make their living by prostitution.
Current Legislative Situation for Transgender Rights in Pakistan
In last elections, many transgenders in Pakistan wrote the history by casting their vote to choose their political representative. This decision of Supreme Court was successfully presided by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.
In 2009, Supreme Court also passed the order of including the category of ‘third gender’ in the national identity card form. Transgenders in Pakistan were awarded the right to REGISTER as a third gender on their CNICs in 2012. a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, ruled that the transgender community is equally entitled to rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens, including the right of inheritance after the death of parents, job opportunities, free education and health care.
However, while their rights are guaranteed on paper, members of the transgender community say they do not have these rights in practice and provincial welfare departments have yet to implement the decision.
As a result, they continue to face discrimination from society. They largely depend on a livelihood of singing and dancing at weddings and birth celebrations. They are also treated as sex objects and often become the victims of violent assault.
- The supreme court of Pakistan has legally declared recently that transgenders have equal rights and are a normal citizen of Pakistan. The latest decision includes equality in all aspects including rights in inheritance after the death of parents, job opportunities and hiring of individuals etc. In 2009, Supreme Court also passed the order of including the category of ‘third gender’ in the national identity card form. In fact, in the last elections, many transgenders in Pakistan wrote the history by casting their vote to choose their political representative. This decision of Supreme Court was successfully presided by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhary.
- Besides government, several non-government bodies are also taking an active interest in improving the quality of life in the transgender community. For example, one such name is Gender Interactive Alliance.
- Although, this is perhaps the first initiative taken by Pakistani Government to safeguard the transgender rights in Pakistan, I best hope that this will bring a true change in the mindsets of people as well. It is high time we start respecting individuals based on their individuality and not our judgment of their character and sexuality.