Expressing concern over the increase in violence against transgender persons across the country, community leaders and human rights activists have demanded that the government take steps for their security and also give them representation in parliament through allocating reserved seats for them.
In a discussion held at the Karachi office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday, leaders from the community also announced that a country-wide alliance, the All Pakistan Transgender Election Network (APTEN), has been formed to politically empower transgender people and to give them a platform to contest next year’s general elections.
Shahzadi and Ihsan Ali, leaders of the Sindh Transgender Network, and Sarah Gill, a transgender who is studying medicine, were key speakers at the moot. Transgender people are among the most marginalised communities in the country. They face social exclusion, discrimination, lack of education and other basic facilities as well as unemployment, said I A Rehman, a senior human rights activist.
“The main problem is not being accepted in society. Even their families do not accept them and force them to leave home,” he said. Shahzadi said that security has become a major concern for transgender persons since they continue to face violence.
“Law enforcement personnel, especially police, who are responsible for protecting citizens, are in fact involved in harassing transgender persons,” she said. “Even to register an FIR in a police station, we need the support of HRCP and other such groups.”
Gill, who is also a victim of torture, said that violence against the community goes completely unnoticed despite repeated attempts to seek help from the police. “Little has been done to provide safety to transgender people,” she lamented.
Ishan Ali of the Sindh Transgender Network criticised the latest figures of the national census saying it misrepresents the transgender population. “In an HIV survey a few years back, over 7,000 transgender people were counted in Karachi alone, while the recent census data shows that there are only 10,000 transgenders in the entire country,” he said.
Ali also criticised the Sindh Social Welfare Department for failing to provide any facilities or relief to the community. He added that two political parties – Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Awami National Party – have also announced to support the community’s demands to allocate reserved seats for transgenders.
Activist Uzma Noorani said that transgender rights are an integral part of human rights and need to be safeguarded at par with other citizens of the country. “There are similarities between the movement for rights of women and transgender people,” she said.
The suggestion was also made to organise a convention or festival for transgenders in the city soon to help sensitise people about transgender rights, pressure the government to provide them security and to advocate for legislation for their rights.