How does it feel to Live when your identity is an abuse, a slang, a filthy & unwanted social animal; When bundles of labels of social crimes are tagged to your body in inheritance. When you have no practical right or opportunity to live, get educated or work with ‘Normal Human Beings’. When your rights are confused under the ampit of Lesbian & Gay rights and ignored as per an oriental state would commonly do. They surely you are a Transgender (Hijra) and you are in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, when Parliamentarians and Human Rights Activists talk about minorities in Pakistan, they generally ignore Gender Minorities, which are, may be not physically, but morally and verbally victims of genocide.
It occurred to me, when I was conducting a survey about “General Public’s behavior with Transgender”, a majority of people simply refused or condemned the survey of such a “dirty” topic. The survey results revealed that a very little fraction of people would accept a transgender to be their classmate, professor, political leader or a part of their social circle.
Continued discrimination and repulsion for the transgender community has left them in poverty and other chronic social evils.Discrimination against them is not structural to a society but largely rooted in how they are perceived as equal members of the society. In most cases, they are widely ridiculed and grossly mocked at even if they try to make efforts towards a decent living for themselves.
As a part of stagnant social stigma about transgenders, they are considered to be synonymous to prostitutes or beggars in most villages and even developed cities. Their settlements are usually away from normal colonies and people consider it a derogatory omen to live among them. Let aside the appointment of transgenders as teachers of children Mughal royals, It is often debated that they are immoral by choice. So, to remove the misconception, lets analyze the situation. Statistics show that more than 90% of transgenders in Pakistan are unable to complete their secondary education; due to poverty and bullying they are unable to complete their pursuit of knowledge. It is evident, how many of you have ever seen a ‘Hijra’ in your classrooms? Or one step further, at your workplace? The prejudice, unacceptability and ridicule never let them reach the level of competing for a job interview. Hence mostly they are left with dancing, singing, prostitution and begging. Breaking the stereotype, first transgender medical doctor in Pakistan ‘Sarah Gill’ is still struggling with fears of social taboos. Sarah started an NGO named “Gender Interactive Alliance” and is working on social media forums for the rights of transgenders, but she could seldom make it to a TV channel or Newspaper headlines.
Despite the rulings of the Apex Court in 2012, that transgenders enjoy all the citizen rights including the right to association and contest in elections, the President of She-male Association, Shahana Abbas who decided to contest elections as MPA from PP-254 Muzaffargarh in 2012 elections, had to turn down his campaign when he couldn’t get support of people except the ones of his own gender. The Court needs to understand, that only recognizing gender on their National Identity Cards isn’t sufficient; the transgender community must be given reserved seats in the National Assembly just like religious minorities, because transgender mostly fail to establish political following (to stand up for their rights) in an environment which doesn’t consider them an able and essential part of it. Furthermore, there is a dire need of laws protecting transgenders from bullying, hate speech, discrimination at workplace and harassing; as most of developed countries offer.
Until we prioritize bringing transgender people into mainstream society, there is little hope for a shift in people’s perceptions and behaviors. Since the Lagislators are overwhelmed with Terrorism, Energy and the political instability, the issue of transgender rights gets pushed to the periphery. NGOs like Youth Parliament are working on Policy options for Transgender rights, but unless the Electronic Media doesn’t run a campaign for raising their public status and rights, the Federal doesn’t seem like paying heed to this issue.
When we talk about tolerance and acceptance of beliefs, ethnicity and races, our society also needs to accept that their is a third gender; merging which under the name of gender conformity would lead to an existential and identical crisis to the community.