Pakistan has been swinging between complete and partial lockdowns since the country’s first coronavirus case in February this year, adversely affecting the economy — both the documented and undocumented. This situation has hit the country’s marginalised communities the hardest, such as transgender persons.
Trans Action Alliance’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) President Farzana Jan explained that transpersons do not own land or possess savings to fall back on during such times, adding that their livelihood revolves around outdoor activities such as performance arts which have gone down to zero now. She lamented that other than ruling party MPA Rabia Basri, who assisted them from her own pocket, no government department has come to their aid so far. Farzana also complained of a complete lack of assistance via the government’s Ehsaas relief scheme and called on authorities to honour their commitments to the community, made from 2012 onward when they were granted recognition as a third gender in national identity cards.
Disputing the number of transgender persons in the province — 940 — stated in the latest census, she put the figure at over 4,000, and demanded shelters for her community so they do not have to depend on the mercy of landlords.
Nighat Orakzai, a Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker and supporter of transgender community’s causes in the provincial assembly, regretted that despite several resolutions, motions and laws, the issues of the community are yet to be taken seriously by the government.
Human Rights Ministry’s Peshawar Regional Office Director Ghulam Ali claimed the plight of the community has seen a reduction and cases of violence against them have also reduced in the last couple of years since the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018 was passed. However, data from the home department, police and human rights officials states that there have been targeted killings of 19 transgender persons in the past four years in KP. The actual number is stated to be much higher, as per rights activists.
Qamar Naseem, who works for the transgender community, asserted that the government and civil society need to work hand-in-hand, along with community members themselves, to ensure fairer access to basic services such as education, health, jobs and welfare. Giving the examples of neighbouring countries, he said transgenders persons there are much more accepted and successful than in Pakistan and that can only be changed when all the stakeholders work together.