March for equality

Editorial Board
Thursday, Nov 24, 2022

Our societal structure continues to reflect the culture of criminalization of transgender persons that became part of state practice during the colonial period. We see this in the everyday police harassment of transgender persons, incidents of hospitals refusing to treat them and the denial of other social services provided by the state. This is in addition to the everyday social and sexual harassment they face. Transgender activists have continued to talk about the need to be accepted as normal members of society, as people who can perform any job and any other role in society. But the victories for transgender people have been far and few. Encouragingly, in the past few years there has been increasing awareness about the significance of transgender rights. This past Sunday, hundreds of trans-activists and allies gathered in Karachi – at the first Sindh 'Moorat March' – to protest against the discriminations meted out to transpersons. There has been a visible intolerance in society against transgender persons resulting in violence against them which has claimed many lives across Pakistan and especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Only recently, we have seen the sort of response a film like Joyland got from the conservative side of the aisle – only on account of humanizing a trans character.

Amnesty International data shows that as many as 18 transgender persons have been killed in Pakistan in a year (between October 2021 and September 2022). Though courts in Pakistan have given some favourable verdicts for transgender community, their implementation has remained an issue. The same applies to the Transgender Act that was made controversial again by a conservative onslaught against it. It has been 10 years since transgender persons in Pakistan have been legally recognized by a Supreme Court order. We as a people need to realize how little protection is afforded to the most vulnerable among us. The problem is not just one of law enforcement and a lack of official action. It is our duty as citizens to create a society where all feel welcome and safe. The reason attacks on transgender persons are so common is because the perpetrators feel they have immunity for their actions. This should not be allowed to stand and we cannot just rely on the government to be the agent of change. All the laws that give rights to this community must come in force without delay, and respect for gender identities must be ensured.

Dignity, regardless of class and gender, is a fundamental right granted to every citizen under the constitution. The brutalities transgender persons go through on a daily basis and the increasing violent attacks on them, especially in recent years, should serve as a grisly reminder of how far we have still to go before all citizens of Pakistan enjoy equal rights and protection under the law.