When will Transphobia end in Pakistan?

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In the past year, Pakistan has seen several alarming cases of transphobic violence. In May, for example, a woman identified as Alisha died in a Peshawar hospital from gunshot wounds after her treatment was delayed. The delay in treatment was due to a debate over whether Alisha should be admitted to a male or female ward.

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Videos of transgender individuals being physically assaulted have gone viral in Pakistan as well. In fact, in 2015 alone, over 45 transgender people were killed in Pakistan’s northern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as reported in stats.

I have often wondered why there is a general 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. They only attend and perform funerals at night, secretly. 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.

Pakistani transgenders carry placards as they rally to mark World Aids Day in Karachi on November 30, 2013. World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 every year to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. AFP PHOTO/Asif HASSAN / AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN

As Pakistanis, we need to realise 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.

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.

Majority make their living by singing and dancing alongside the road and in private parties or begging on streets. Additionally, transgenders are usually not encouraged to live amongst regular mohalla’s. They are bound to establish their own colonies outside of regular communities.

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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 victimisation 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.

We do not realise the pain and struggle these people go through. In Pakistan, we need to educate families and communities not to think about gender and sex as an entirely binary phenomenon. Instead, we should recognise that many individuals identify with a gender other than the one they have been given at birth. Gender-variant children should be raised with the same affection and love. Once grown, they should be treated with respect and dignity in the society as well. Many transgender people can develop psychological problems because of being abused, feeling guilty, having relationship problems, or for unresolved unconscious conflicts.


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Amna Kazi

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