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Gender bias: Transgender people face harassment in police lockup

BY: Rabia Ali

KARACHI: At the Saddar police station, officers pass mischievous looks. “Humaray station par madhuris aye hain [We have beautiful maidens at our station today],” smirked one of them, walking towards a shabby lockup.

Inside, Rimmel and Moni, two transgender people, huddle close to each other, looking petrified. “I pray that tonight we sleep at our homes instead of this police station. They are troubling us so much.”

Booked in a case involving a dispute and for injuring a man, the two say they are being subjected to immense harassment and humiliation by the police. “The first night we were brought to the police station, they forced us to undress. They said they wanted to see if we were really transsexuals,” says Rimmel, her head bowed in shame. “It was humiliating.”

The main accused, another transgender person is on bail, while Rimmel and Moni, who were arrested four days earlier from their house near Jinnah hospital, claim they were only trying to end the fight.

And since they have come into the police station, taunts and harassment have followed them. Moni, brushing her short hair, said that a police officer tried to grab her from behind the bars to remove her shirt. When she pulled back, he called her names. The two, when taken to the court, were also mocked by the lawyers and others there.

“The police are not taking us seriously. When we ask for something, they say things like you must have many male friends.” Both of them are associated with NGOs that work for transgender people.

Rimmel, who has completed her B Com part one, left home three years ago when her father told her to either change her ways or leave the house. “I could not suppress my feelings and felt like a woman. I could not live with my family.” On the streets, she worked as a dancer in musical gatherings and functions, leaving the work when she found a job at the Gender Interactive Alliance. “But I am in touch with my family. They sent me biryani here,” she said pointing to the empty plastic boxes in the lockup. Moni, who works for another organisation, says that she meets her family every two months.

Meanwhile, the police denied that the two accused were being ill-treated. “We are treating them just fine,” said SIO Javed Sheikh. The officer could not, however, refrain from expressing his biased views about the transgender community. “Society should know about their wrongdoings. They all try to get sympathy.”

Separate lockups

Transgender activist Bindiya Rana demanded that separate lockups be established for eunuchs. “Such cases highlight the need for separate lockups. How can they be kept be in male police stations?”

According to Rana, transgender people face harassment everywhere, from hospitals to workplaces. “We are recognised as transgender people on the NIC only.”

Sensitisation of the police

Rana Asif Habib, who works with street children and transgender people, called for sensitisation of the police when it came to dealing with transsexuals. “Their gender is being made the issue. As equal citizens, they have right to stand trial and to be treated fairly.”

He said that the police should be sensitised and given trainings on how to take up such cases and respond towards them when dealing with transsexuals.

Express Tribune