On May 27, a transgender person was found dead at their house in Faisalabad. It was discovered that the windows of their house were broken and there was also blood present on their walls.
The transgender community in Pakistan remains to be marginalized despite government efforts to pass court rulings on recognizing the third gender back in 2009. Observers say the subjugated demographic has not been readily accepted by society due to which they are forced to live miserable life.
Pakistan is a signatory to various international conventions that demand an end to all sorts of violence and discrimination to their community. Yet, the government has not made substantial arrangements for their security and socio-economic development at par with the rest of the other two genders.
Given the lax attitude of the government, there are few schools and education institutions for transgender persons. Moreover, the enrollment of transgender persons in mainstream schools is negligible as such schools do not provide a third gender option in the admission certificate.
With less education and underprivileged social treatment at workplaces, transgender persons become victims of violence such as sexual abuse, rape, financial marginalization, murder, torture or involve themselves in taking drugs or alcohol in order to escape misery.
“Transgender individuals are often responsible for financially supporting their biological families, families who tend to resort to abuse, violence and torture to maintain their control over them,” said Saro Imran, who is a transgender activist running a community-based organization in Pakistan.
“Forced marriage and physical and emotional torture are common forms of abuse against them, recorded in studies done by various organizations. The worst thing is, if police arrest perpetrators of violence, the biological family tends to forgive them in return for money.”
Analysts maintain that most of the killings of transgender persons are done by their family members who do not allow them to go to weddings, but the latter insists on doing so to earn money and livelihood. In the past few years, an increased number of transgender individuals are murdered by their family members due to their alleged participation in weddings.
“The authorities must take serious steps to investigate these brutal attacks and killings. Ensuring justice and accountability for the violence perpetrated against transgender people in Pakistan will send a signal that such acts will not be tolerated and that all citizens — no matter what their gender identity — will be protected,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia-Pacific civic space researcher.
Right activists have also maintained that the transgender community faces discrimination and killings regularly that restricts their movements as a free citizen of the country. Despite their social status being recognized by the constitution of Pakistan, they are still unable to enjoy basic human rights including the right to life, right to education, right to have equal job opportunities and right to fair trial etcetera.
According to Pakistan’s Transgender Association, at least 73 members of the transgender community have been killed since 2015. The violence against them continues unabated and demands strict legal action by the state.
Experts reiterate that in order to remove the existing hindrances to promote the development of this community, we need to work on the issues that at present make them feel ostracized from mainstream society. The first and foremost thing to do is to establish as many schools as possible for transgender persons and allow their safe entrance in regular educational institutions. This has now become a challenge to make this gender sit in the classrooms rather than dancing on the weddings while suffering humiliation.
The first transgender school in Pakistan ‘The Gender Guardian School’ located in Lahore is quite an encouraging step in this direction. Pakistan is direly in need of similar efforts to include the presence of transgender persons in mainstream society so that they can find themselves living in an environment that readily accepts their contribution.
“This is the very first initiative for the marginalized transgender community, so there will be hindrances. But this step of establishing a school for transgender people will bring a change in Pakistan,” said Sanya Abbasi, one of the transgender teachers at the Gender Guardian School.
“I personally believe that the social, familial and economical hurdles and the gap between transgender people and other Pakistanis will be narrowed because of this initiative.”
In a conscious move, after acknowledging the efforts of transgender communities and civil society, Pakistan’s senate passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2018.
The stated legislation resulted in changing much public assumption about the negative image of the transgender community, however, there is still a long way to go. Experts maintain that the inclusion of this segment at par with the other two genders in the society and fair treatment from all groups is vital for mitigating their grievances and gender woes.