The provisional results of the sixth census state that there are over 10,000 transgender people across Pakistan, but the community claims the actual number to be about 10 times more.
For the first time in the country’s history, the transgender people were counted in the census after the Lahore High Court issued orders on January 9 for the federal government to include the community in the process.
Pakistan’s transgender population stands at 10,418, which is 0.005 per cent of the country’s total inhabitants of more than 207 million, according to the provisional statistics of the census carried out earlier this year by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
In Karachi, the most populous city of the country where the latest census puts the population at 14.9 million, the statistics show there are only 1,497 transgender people.
Census authorities claimed that the city’s highest number of transgender people were in District West (357), followed by District Central (327), District Korangi (267), District East (223), District South (195) and then District Malir (128).
Leaders from the transgender community rejected the count and said their population was “intentionally underestimated”. They termed the census “inaccurate and misleading”. Kami Sid, a transgender activist who runs Sub Rang Society, an NGO working for the community’s rights, told The News that they had reservations over the process adopted by the census teams to count the transgender people.
“We are not satisfied with the statistics of the transgender people in the country, and in Karachi. They regularly migrate to Karachi from across the country, especially from Punjab. Their number would be around 100,000 in Pakistan.”
The main census form did not carry a column for transgender people or for people with disabilities, making it impossible to count them during the exercise. However, on the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s orders, the PBS included both categories and asked the census staff to allocate separate codes for collecting their information.
“Even after that, most of the community members complained that the census staff did not visit their homes to collect their particulars,” said Kami. “The enumerators did not come to my house as well.” She also said the census staff was not sensitised on how to collect information from the transgender community.
Researchers working on the transgender community corroborated her claim. Rana Asif Habib, an activist working on transgender rights, told The News that during the census many parents did not identify their children as transgender people because of social taboos.
“The census staff did not even bother visiting their deras [compounds where the transgender people live together] to include them in the count.” Commenting on the PBS’s statistics on transgender people in Karachi, Habib said their number in the metropolis would be between 12,000 and 15,000. “There are more than 500 traffic signals, where an average of two to three transgender people could be seen begging.”
According to the official statistics, Punjab has the highest number of transgender people (6,709 or 64.4 per cent), followed by Sindh (2,527 or 24.3 per cent), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (913), the federal capital Islamabad (133), Balochistan (109) and then the FederallyAdministered Tribal Areas (Fata) (27).