Transgenders are often referred to as the “third gender”. Transgenders possess a gender identity that is different from the one that they were given at the time of birth. Some transgenders seek medical assistance to transit from one sex to the other and are known as trans-sexual. Transgenders are often shortened as trans, and there are two types of trans:
- Trans-men: People whose assigned sex at the time of birth is female, but they carry their gender identity as males.
- Trans-women: People whose assigned sex at the time of birth is males, but they carry the gender identity as females.
Transgenders are specified due to their sexual orientation. They may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual.
The opposites of transgenders are cisgenders, who are persons whose gender identity matches with their assigned sex at birth.
The occurrence of transgenders is generally less than 1% of the world’s total population.
In Pakistan, transgenders are completely ignored in every walk of life. Several issues on grass root level are being faced by transgenders in Pakistan which range from social to economic and legal problems. In Pakistan, transgenders face discrimination issues at workplaces, healthcare centers, educational institutions, and in society in general. Lack of access to education leads them to practice unhealthy activities such as sex work and alcohol usage. Transgenders are at high risk of violence, both physical and mental. They are deprived of basic human rights. Following are some of the major issues faced by transgenders in Pakistan.
- Social Exclusion:
Transgenders are socially excluded people. They are often called abnormal and different people and are shunned by society. Transgenders are mostly disowned by their families as they are reluctant to accept them. They face discrimination by the Government and society. Transgenders are socially isolated people because most people believe that they are not in conformity with the traditional genders. People avoid transgenders and thus they face immense ostracism in society. This puts them in stress, anxiety, and depression. Discrimination and stigmatization put transgenders live at the fringes of society in Pakistan.
- Basic Human Rights:
Transgenders are deprived of the basic rights that other citizens practice in society. Transgenders are unable to get quality education, employment opportunities, healthcare facilities, and accommodation. Transgenders face a lot of economic issues and because of their financial constraints, they are often involved in sex work, to make their living. As transgenders are unable to get quality education, therefore, sufficient employment opportunities are not available for them. Transgenders also face harassment at workplaces. Transgenders face accommodation issues as people think of them as “disrespectful and disgraced people”. They usually live in groups for their survival and protection. Unfortunately, proper and adequate health care facilities are also not available for transgenders. They are mocked and criticized everywhere they go. They are not able to live a healthy life because of all the societal injustices.
Trans-women face harassment and mistreatment from society. They are physically and mentally victimized by society. They face violence, isolation, and torture and are even murdered ruthlessly. Physical abuse of transgender often leads to suicidal attempts. They are easily subjected to extortion, trafficking, and prostitution. Many trans women because of discrimination and financial issues, engage themselves in unprotected sex, which puts their lives at stake. Sex work in an unhealthy environment increases their chances of HIV/AIDS. Because of their involvement in sex work, trans women also fall victim to gang rapes. To avoid this injustice from society, many transgenders engage themselves in alcohol and drug abuse. Some others resort to self-harm and make suicidal attempts. Transgenders also suffer from anxiety, stress, and depression.
The transgender community in Pakistan is also at a high risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. This is because they are considered easy targets by society. Transgenders are physically and verbally abused by society at large. Sexual abuse is found to be higher in young transgenders. Transgenders are sexually assaulted at workplaces and cannot work easily. Transgenders are badly exploited by society. They are considered a source of entertainment and are mocked and criticized everywhere. For survival, trans women and trans youth switch to sex work which leads to higher cases of HIV in Pakistan. Transgenders and easily prone to trafficking and forced prostitution. In recent years, many cases have been reported in Pakistan which involve prostitution, forced sex, trafficking, and rapes. Extreme abuse of transgender leads to brutal murders.
- Legal Recognition:
Transgenders lack legal recognition in Pakistan. They are not entitled to the basic rights practiced by the other citizens of Pakistan. Although there is the Trans protection Act of 2018, which reserves the rights of transgenders, but is not in practice in Pakistan. Transgenders are not legally recognized at educational institutions, workplaces, and health care centers. Transgenders have the right to inheritance but are not given any property rights.
In 2018, the parliament of Pakistan passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act. This bill is considered “one of the world’s most commendable and progressive trans-rights bills”
The main points of this Act are:
- It allows transgenders to choose their gender and carry that identity on the ID card.
- It gives transgenders legal equality.
- It prohibits discrimination in schools, at work, on public transit, and while receiving medical care.
- It allows transgenders to be eligible for driving licenses.
- Transgenders can get passports also.
- It reserves the right of transgenders to vote.
- It allows them to run for office also.
- It gives the rights to inheritance, by their chosen gender.
- Heavy punishments and penalties are charged for the harassment and assault of transgenders.
- It obligates the Government to establish “Protection Centers” and “Safe Houses”.
- It bounds the Government to build separate hails, prisons, and places of confinement.
- It allows the transgenders to be counted in the census.
In 2018, Transgender Persons Act was passed by the Government which reserves and protects the rights of transgenders. The former government of Pakistan took a lot of initiatives to improve the lives of transgenders in Pakistan. These initiatives were based to uplift the living standards of those transgenders in society who are mostly taken as a source of entertainment and are mocked in society. In 2020, transgenders were the right to get driving licenses in Pakistan. Three years ago, transgenders were declared to be counted in the census, thus allowing them to enter the national database. In 2017, transgenders were allowed to get passports according to their transgender identity. This allows them to travel around the world and acknowledge their identity. In 2021, the first state-funded school for trans-women was opened in Pakistan. In 2021, for the very first time, transgenders were allowed to join the police force in Pakistan. In 2020, Pakistani media for the first time hired a transgender news anchor.
We can listen to the stories of transgenders and address their challenges. We need to promote activism i.e., make changes at the policy level for the welfare of transgenders. We can create knowledge and spread awareness. Raising awareness in people can be done through organizing rallies and protests. Letters to the Govt. officials can be written emphasizing the needs of transgenders.
In Pakistan, transgenders are seen as “disgraced people” and even their parents don’t acknowledge them. Society is also reluctant to accept transgenders, which makes it extremely difficult for them to live a carefree and healthy life. In Pakistan, transgenders are being punished for uncommitted crimes. We need to admit the fact that transgenders are a part of our society and deserve equal rights just like anyone else in Pakistan. This emphasizes the dire need to change the attitude and behavior of society towards transgenders.
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Written by: Tahira Rubab Hafeez