None of us is unfamiliar with the discrimination and oppression that is directed towards the transgender community of Pakistan. It is rare to see people treat them with the respect and equality that they deserve; it is much more common to hear of events where a mob of people surround a transgender person and harass them, where a transgender activist is shot and succumbs to the wounds because the hospital couldn’t decide whether to put the person in the male ward or the female ward.
The transgender community in Pakistan is a victim of social exclusion and is given little to no recognition. This is a marginalized group that has to face injustice, poverty, illiteracy, social boycott, and lack of job opportunities. All of this combines and forces these people into risky behaviour; including but not limited to substance abuse and suicidal ideation. The already stigmatized and oppressed transgender people of Pakistan also have to face harassment and violence. Facing discrimination at every level (be it hospitals, educational institutes or other organizations) forces the transgender people to develop a negative attitude (Shah et al., 2018). The transgender people are ignored in every walk of life and are discriminated against in all ways; they do not get equal job opportunities, education or medical care (Saddique et al., 2017).
Mamun et al. (2016) have studied transgender individuals in workplaces in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. It was found that transgender employees did not have job security and had little opportunity for promotions. They devised an agenda for the future to inform individuals, organizational leaders and policymakers about the issues that the transgender community faces.
Access to health care is a huge issue that the transgender community is facing. Their reduced engagement in disease prevention activities is a matter of great concern, especially because in Pakistan, the HIV incidence amongst the transgender community makes up about 17.5% of the whole HIV population. Moreover, lack of access to education results in poor health literacy (Ming et al., 2016).
Despite all this, steps have been taken in the right direction. Recently, Reem Sharif was appointed as the first transgender cop in Pakistan, she works for the Tahafuz Centre which is a pilot project by the Rawalpindi Police to protect the transgender community.
In May 2018, Pakistan’s parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act. Pakistan is the first Asian country and one of the few in the world to grant the right of self-identity. Pakistan has the chance to be a pathbreaker and go forward with a more progressive attitude (Mohydin, 2019). This act allows the people of the transgender community to self-identify as male, female or a blend of both genders, and to have this identity on all their official documents. Basic rights were granted and discrimination by employers and private business owners was outlawed (Hashim, 2018). The law also allows for transgender people to have the right to inherit, right to education, right to employment, right to vote, right to hold public office, right to health, right to access public offices and right to property. However, even with this historic act in place, enforcement mechanisms have not been put in place yet. Even though the theoretical foundations have been laid, they will only be of use if the laws passed in this Act are actually enforced (Ahsen, 2019).
There is much more that still needs to be done. The government has to now work on enforcing the laws that have been put into place to protect the transgender community. What we as individuals and as a society can do is be more inclusive of the transgender people. We need to educate those around us to be more respectful and more acceptive of people belonging to this marginalized community. NGOs should work as a bridge between the transgender community and the education and employment sectors. NGOs can arrange for job fairs and make it more possible for transgender people to get jobs. NGOs can get in touch with major organizations, who can as a project under Corporate Social Responsibility fund the education of people from this community and then provide them with jobs. Transgender people should be given equal opportunities, there is no place or justification for discrimination in our society. The transgender people in Pakistan and around the world are just as deserving of respect and equality as anyone else. Some monumental changes need to be made now, not only through the implementation of laws but also by changing mindsets.
Ahsen, S. B. (2019, October 7). Rights of Transgenders in Pakistan. Global Village Space. https://www.globalvillagespace.com/rights-of-transgenders-in-pakistan/
Al-Mamun, A., Heyden, M. L. M., & Rafique, Q. (2016). Transgender Individuals in Asian Islamic Countries: An Overview of Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Issues in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. In Koellen (Ed.), Sexual Orientation and Transgender Issues in Organizations: Global Perspectives on LGBT Workforce Diversity (pp. 167-180). Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-29623-4_10
Hashim, A. (2018, May 9). Pakistan passes landmark transgender rights law. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/pakistan-passes-landmark-transgender-rights-law-180509095207950.html
Ming, L. C., Hadi, M. A., & Khan T. M. (2016). Transgender heath in India and Pakistan. The Lancet. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)32222-X
Mohydin, R. (2019, January 22). With Transgender Rights, Pakistan has an Opportunity to be a Pathbreaker. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/01/with-transgender-rights-pakistan-has-an-opportunity-to-be-a-path-breaker/
Saddique, K., Gang, C., Mirbehar, S., Batool, H., & Ahmad, I. (2017). Transgender Issues in Pakistani Community. European Academic Research. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314116381_Transgender_Issues_in_Pakistani_Community
Shah, H. B. U., Rashid, F., Atif, I., Hydrie, M. Z., Fawad, M. W. B., Muzaffar, H. Z., Rehman, A., Anjum, S., Mehroz, M. B., Haider, A., Hassan, A., & Shukar, H. (2018). Challenges faced by the marginalized communities such as transgenders in Pakistan. The Pan African American Journal, 30(96). DOI: 10.11604/pamj.2018.30.96.12818