With clerics approving transgender marriage, Pakistan has shown courage

The government should now introduce laws to bring about a real change in the lives of the community.

 |  4-minute read |   04-07-2016
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Pakistan is a conservative society. Here, neither women, nor the transgender community have too many rights, and the majority of people don't respect them.

This disdain is particularly pronounced in bigger cities like Karachi, where transgender people have always been at the receiving end of people's jibes.

However, it is a bit different in smaller cities and towns. I have lived in one such small city called Shikarpur, and there, I have seen people being more accommodative of the transgender people, who are even kindly referred to as "faqeers".

Also read: Brutal assault on 80-year-old Hindu man in Pakistan leaves us shattered

People there have always advised me, "Never laugh at faqeers. If you do so, god will be angry at you, and you won't be able to get success in life."

My mother had taught me never to refuse a beggar. It is a piece of advice that I have always tried to abide by.

trans-pak_070416063403.jpg Alisha, the transgender who was attacked, lies in hospital.   

Once I was sitting beside a group of transgender people, and one of them told me, "Aray O ladki, kuch humein bhi de do!" (Hey girl, give us something too!).

I found something to offer them. Though they didn't take my offerings in the end, they blessed me for being kind towards them and for not turning them down.

Also read: Everyday realities of Hindus in Pakistan

A few days later, I met them again, but this time they were having a quarrel with local policemen who were abusing them.

"Nobody loves us, except our mother and god," one of them cried. It was a voice of anguish and despair.

The reason I choose to narrate these incidents here is that they show how helpless the sexual minority in Pakistan are. They are neglected and mocked for no fault of theirs. But they are really good-natured people. That is something which came right across from the interactions I had with them.

Also read - Abducted, harassed and silenced: How women journalists survive Pakistan

It is unfortunate that the Pakistani State is silent on the issue of the transgender community. When there are no law guaranteeing the rights of transgender people, the society, of its own accord, can hardly be expected to treat them with respect. After all, it is the State that shapes the minds of individuals.

Let me ask our political parties - how many of them are serious about transgender rights? How many of them have it as part of their agenda, in their manifestoes?

Are the transgender people not our citizens? Do they have no right to play a meaningful role? Do they have no mind to contribute at the political level?

But in Pakistan, what else would you expect from a conservative political class? It is a class that is not ready to have women in positions of power. How can it be expected to accept equal rights for the transgender community?

Political parties in Pakistan, sadly, have failed to undertake steps that would lead to a positive change in society.

In May, the death of Alisha - a transgender who was critically injured after being shot eight times by a disgruntled customer - shook the nation. Alisha was denied proper medical attention.

At Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital, she was kept waiting for an hour while the authorities debated on whether she should be shifted to the women or men's ward. Finally, after protests from other patients, she was shifted to the men's ward, where incredibly, she was treated in front of the lavatory, as far away from the other patients as possible. Alisha, eventually succumbed to her injuries.

Incidents of violence against transgender people have been quite frequent in Pakistan over the years, but Alisha's death, led to some change, at least, in the society's attitude towards this community.

A fatwa was issued allowing the transgender people to get married. It shows religious groups are starting to accept the existence of the transgender community.

The government should now introduce laws to bring about a real change in the lives of transgenders.

"I do not live with my family because I am incomplete (adhura)," said a transgender, wiping her tears with her dupatta. "I cannot hug my family except my mother, and before sleeping, can only talk to my god," she added.

However, it is us who are really incomplete, for we don't know how to love and respect human beings for exactly what they are - human beings.

Writer

Veengas Veengas @veengasj

She is a journalist based in Karachi. She has worked on political, human rights and minority issues and works at regional and English newspapers.

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