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Transgenders in Pakistan; Challenges and prospects

By Wajiha Zafar,

Pakistan has recorded transgender people’s population for the first time in its census 2017 and has estimated their number more than 10,000. The transgenders as per these counts cover 0.005 percent of total population of country. In spite of this they are facing so many problems.

Dr. Randi Kaufman, a New York-based Psychologist has said ‘the high rates of suicide attempts and self-harm are often stem from being rejected or being not supported. Moreover, lives of transgender people are marked with poverty, harassment and other intolerable issues in a society.

Many NGOs are working for human rights to ensure the equal rights to both men and women but they do not something beneficial for transgenders. They must be treated equally in society as humans.

The status of transgender in Pakistan is very low as they are deprived of their guarded rights and are facing so many hitches and trammel. People use vituperative language and used to call them ‘Hijra’. Hijra is someone who is supposed to be a coward. Why do we refute the fact that transgender people were the personal guards of most of the Mughal Emperors throughout the Mughal Period?

In Pakistan, rights of transgenders were severely violated as they were not given due respect in society. Mostly, transgenders fall victim to sexual harassment. Neither higher authorities take the action for them nor do they even highlight their issues.

Recently school is opened by an NGO for trans child to give them educational rights but they are working on a very small scale. They must be activated to work on higher scales. Our society do not give them right to education and the government too is still unable to make education compulsory for transgender people.They usually face discrimination while searching for a job and are compelled to beg, to dance or to be prostitute in order to earn money.

Transgenders do not possess their health rights as well. They usually experience injustice or gender discrimination even in getting medical treatment. In June 2016, Alisha a 23-year-old transgender activist died for not having medical treatment on time as hospital staff was unable to decide whether to admit her in a male or a female ward, told her friends.

But if we talk about current scenario regarding rights of transgenders or the issues faced by them, the status of transgender people is improving gradually. As ‘Transgender Persons Bill 2017’ has brought a ray of hope to the community. This bill is aimed at reducing many basic issues of the community. Moreover, according to this bill, the transgender will be permitted to get driving license, harassment of the transgenders will be forbidden, safe houses will be constructed by the government for the transgender people as well as facility of loans to start small businesses are among the other issues to be addressed through implementation of the bill.

Recently for the first time in history, a Pakistani news channel-Kohinoor has hired transgender as a newsreader – Marvia Malik. The owner of Kohinoor Junaid Ansari told VOA news that Ms Malik had been selected on merit, not on gender issues.

Marvia Malik, graduated in journalism (who had been worked as a model) told the BBC she was moved to tears when she was offered the job. She said she hoped her work would help improve the lives of Pakistan’s transgender community.

Furthermore, in last month, ex chief justice of Pakistan, SaqibNisar announced to provide jobs to two transgenders in Supreme Court of Pakistan. For the very first time, Pakistan’s Supreme Court will hire two transgenders to give them their rights in the Muslim-majority country, the Chief Justice said. “In our society transgenders are subjected to ridicule. It is our top most priority to give them their rights,” he was quoted as saying by Geo News. The chief justice said, “Court wants to bring them into mainstream. It wants to resolve their issues”.

We have tremendous influence to make transgenders’ lives easier. It is needed to make efforts collectively to recognize their issues and help them out to overcome those issues. Pakistan must have to work on broader scale to preserve their identity. Laws and policies must be implemented to ensure their basic rights so that they may live free or respectable life. Certainly, valuing the transgender people will sort out the multifaceted problems of thetransgender’s community.

(Writer is graduated in Media Studies from Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Shaheed Benazirabad)

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