Feature: Tabooed transgender community still facing discrimination but to be protected in Pakistan

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-11 00:55:47|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Misbah Saba Malik

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The transgender persons are still facing discrimination in Pakistan but they will be protected as the government has introduced a bill in the parliament which seeks to provide equal rights to them.

Rani, a 21-year-old transgender in Pakistan's northwest Peshawar city, was beaten blue by her boyfriend when she accepted an offer to dance at a wedding function of a rich man's son.

"He wants me to stick to him, but doesn't support me financially. I'll die of hunger if I don't find a work for myself. I can't get a decent job so I have to dance at wedding parties to earn my bread and butter. But every time I attended some dance parties I got humiliated by him."

Rani is one of over 10,000 transgenders registered in Pakistan in the recently held population census 2017, who are humiliated and socially discriminated by the rich, poor, men and women alike.

The transgender organizations said that the actual number of transgenders in Pakistan is about half a million to 1 million and the census failed to register them all as they shied away from registering themselves.

The community experiences rejection, stigmatization, harassment and physical violence because they do not conform with prevailing gender norms, and are also denied by official identity documents that reflect their preferred gender.

The term normally used for transgenders in local language is "Hijra" or "Khusra", a slang, which is loosely translated as impotent, or someone who is even weaker than women to stand up and fight for his rights.

Amid all these taboos and discriminatory attitudes, some rights organizations are working across the country to protect the rights of this underprivileged community.

An organization, Blue Veins which is working for the protection of the transgender community in the country's north Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, has recently launched a mobile application for android, which will enable the transgender community to report about the violence inflicted on them, and call for immediate help by just pushing one button on their mobile phones.

The organization said that the transgender community is constrained by taboos everywhere in the Pakistan, but KP is the worst record in this case where 54 transgender persons have been killed while 607 incidents of violence against them were reported since 2005.

Talking to Xinhua, Qamar Naseem, a representative of the organization, said that the actual number of the incidents of violence is much higher, but the data they quoted includes only the cases that were reported and registered at the police stations.

He said that the app, Trans-Muhafiz, translated as protector of the transgender, has been introduced with an aim to record the cases of harassment, violence, denial of services, and unfair treatment against transgender and intersex persons.

He said that the transgender person who is using the app can add the telephone numbers of his trusted ones, people from Blue Veins, police officials, family members or anyone he wants in their mobile phones and can alert them whenever they are in danger.

Naseem, who is also the program coordinator for Blue Veins, said that Trans-Muhafiz has both online and offline reporting options, and also video and audio message service. An online violence reporting system will create a more empowering reporting experience for transgender survivors, provide authorities with better evidence and data on violence, and facilitate the identification of repeat perpetrators.

"We can't ensure we can protect them every time and everywhere, but we will try to make the best possible efforts helping them with in our resources," Naseem said.

He said that the KP government is also cooperating with them for the protection of the community as for the first time in the history of the country, the community will be issued health card to get free medical facilities this week.

Arzu Khan, head of a transgender organization, said that the transgenders often face discriminatory and even shameful attitude by the people who humiliate them whenever they want and when they go to police stations to report the cases, no one pays heed to them.

"When we go to hospitals, public parks or offices, the gate keepers often bar us from entering, and when we insist they ask for body frisking and some of them touch us inappropriately during security check," Khan, a transgender herself, told Xinhua.

She said that the profession of her community is to dance in functions, marriages and other parties, making them vulnerable to violence.

Arzu said that most of the people of her community are not educated, as the society does not accept them and even if they get admission in schools, they are bullied by the fellow students and even teachers. So being the uneducated individuals, the easiest job for them is to dress up in fancy clothes, wear make up and dance in the public.

"Some of the transgenders in KP earn up to Rs. four or five lac (about 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. dollars) a month, by performing at weddings or other work," she said.

Arzu said that the newly introduced mobile application will help the people of her community complain against violence, sexual harassment and other discriminatory attitude they face on the daily basis.

"When someone from our community is in any kind of danger, she will just press one button and all of us, the organizations working for our protection and the government officials will get to know about it, and hopefully we can all do something for her in time."

While the transgenders in KP welcomed the mobile application, Sonia, a transgender who begs at traffic signals in Islamabad believes that technology cannot help them.

"I don't have a smart phone, I am too poor to have one, and even if I'll have any I don't know how to operate it. Besides no one cares about us, even if we press the button, neither the police nor our families will come to save us," Sonia said.

Some local watchers believe that the Pakistani society has started accepting transgenders as it is in the first time in the history of the country when they have been included in the census, as even many developed countries do not count the community in census.

The Blue Veins representative said that two laws are in making for the protection of the transgender community, in the country's upper house, and they will soon be passed.

Overall, the transgender community is underprivileged and they are often found begging on the streets or standing at the "dark corners" of the roads late at night to be hired as sex workers.

Though the Pakistani government is trying to give them rights in one way or the other, and rights organizations are mushrooming up to "protect" them, but there is still a long way to go for them to be accepted by the society.