Transgender Community Battles Destitution And Discrimination In Pakistan

Transgender Community Battles Destitution And Discrimination In Pakistan
There is a deafening silence in Pakistan on issues faced by the transgender community. The unfathomable wave of inflation and political instability in Pakistan has been causing unrest and turmoil in every sector of the economy and for people of all ages in all social classes. Thus, the transgender community has been equally affected. Unfortunately, the transgender community is stigmatized with labels not only in Pakistan, but all over the world. Stereotyping and rampant discrimination defines life as a trans person no matter where one lives, which is compounded by the economic difficulties in today’s age. The transgender community in Pakistan is forced to live under appalling conditions due to stagflation.

In our interview with renowned transgender activist Nayab Ali, we nosed out some overwhelming and humiliating facts that suggest that we have failed as vicegerents of the divine on Earth. The disappointment was palpable as Nayab says, "We have been struggling for the third queue, but it is ironic that where females are brutally killed while waiting to get sasta atta for their children, then how can we expect that anyone will protect our rights?" If members of this society are not even considering the third queue, and have strong stereotypes related to the transgender community, then how can this society even begin to address the issues plaguing the community?

Nayab Ali further added, "There is no job market for transgender people, hence the majority of the transgender community is consorted with begging and dancing; however, when people who used to give charity are now in desperate conditions too, how would they give charity to the transgender folk when they themselves are struggling to make ends meet."

Acceptance is the key to solving many issues. Our society has not accepted the transgender community, so it’s quite evident that they cannot fathom their issues and won’t address their problems.

In Pakistan’s constitution, there is no anti-discriminatory law for the transgender community, however, there is merely a clause for non-discrimination on the basis of gender. Yet there are no equal rights for transgender people in the fields of education, the job market, and healthcare. So when they aren’t provided with education, circumstances coerce them to turn to begging.

Where rents have increased for "normal citizens," landlords make it grueling for the transgender community and demand high rents from them. A basic necessity like shelter is out of their reach.

According to a UN report, there was a decline in social mobility in the transgender community during COVID-19. The socioeconomic condition of this marginalized group has worsened since the pandemic. Stigmatization also makes it hard for members of the community to access healthcare. Moreover, the glares and stares that they get in public hospitals make their lives miserable, and it pushes them to go to private hospitals, which have become unaffordable in this inflation.

The transgender community is no doubt one of the most vulnerable minority groups in our society. They are belittled and bashed with little or no empathy in society. The stigmas and stereotypes associated with trans people rules their lives heavy-handedly, and the government has not done enough to address their problems. In response to a question, Nayab Ali said, "the government announced three thousand rupees for the transgender community, but what can we buy with it? Or can it pay our bills or rent? It’s a sad joke where there are no practical steps that should be taken for the transgender community."

Where they are facing a cost of living crisis due to inflation - in the health sector, education, and employment - trans people face a psychological battering that goes unaddressed and unheard. We can see this discriminatory behavior in every aspect of their lives. Even public toilets are either for men or women.

Penning the community’s issues has little impact; however, there should be some practical steps taken by the government and NGOs to work hand in hand for the transgender community’s safety, security, and well-being. Violence against trans people has risen and become more common. Some political parties, especially Jamaat-i-Islaami workers, have killed a number of transgender people in KPK. This is humiliating and inhumane, as the transgender community is already struggling for its survival.

The Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) and the UNDP Human Rights Task Force have committed to “Leave No One Behind” to support the transgender community. Local NGOs like Akhuwat have been working for the protection of transgender people's rights, but there is still a dire need for awareness about the extent of the socioeconomic issues facing the community.

The transgender community faces indiscrimination, inequality, unemployment, isolation, and, destitution. In a patriarchal society where we have only begun to talk open about women’s rights, let’s not forget the rights of the transgender community.

Asadullah Khan Wazir is a broadcast journalist and social media influencer. Iqra Shahab is a researcher