It is a harsh fact that rights of transgenders community in Pakistan and specifically in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are severely violated as they are not given due respect in society. Many transgenders fall victim to sexual harassment seldomly reports it due to lukewarm response of police and government authorities. Transgender people usually face discrimination while searching for a job and are forced to beg, dance or work as prostitutes in order to earn money.
Pakistan documented its transgender population for the first time in 2017 census. It has estimated their number over 10,000. As per these counts, transgenders cover 0.005 percent of the total population. But this number is greatly contested by the leaders of the community who claims that the actual number is far greater than the one reported. According to Farzana Jan head of the transgender community, there are around 45,000 transgenders in KP and at least half a million nationwide, against the official figure of 10,418, in a population of nearly 207 million people.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has taken various steps to reduce discrimination against transgender community in the province. It has introduced steps like, allocation of 74 separate beds for transgenders at different government hospitals and passed transgender Protection Act 2018 but the community still faces discrimination.
According to Farzana Jan, the government had made many claims and promises regarding the protection of their rights but little has been done in this regard. While answering a question regarding the separate wards in hospitals she said that the government had merely announced this but are yet to implement it practically.
Recalling an old memory, she said that one of her friends was shot by some criminals and when they brought her to LRH, the doctors were reluctant to treat her. Due to delay in treatment, she lost her life in the hospital.
As per the data available with Blue Veins, an organisation working for transgender rights, a total of 1,131 cases of violence against transgenders were reported between 2015 and 2017 in KP. “Of these, 67 cases were of murder which include 42 transgenders killed by their boyfriends/intimate partners and four by their respective families, in the name of honour.”
According to Trans Action another organization working for the rights of transgender community, over 600 attacks against transgender women were reported in KP in 2018-19.
In presence of all these hardships, the community is now facing fresh challenges due to current lockdown. A large fraction of transgenders depends solely on beggary and dancing for their sustenance. The lockdown has reduced their earning from zero to minimal leaving them helpless and without any money.
Describing the plight of transgender people in Peshawar, Farzana Jan told us that lockdown was important to curb the outbreak of virus but the negligence of the provincial government has stopped our lives and we have nothing to eat and drink. She lamented that they are also human being who deserves to be respected and loved. Government should not ignore the fact that we are the most vulnerable community to the virus.
Appreciating the role of NGOs and civil society, she said that, in such hard times when the government has ignored us, the civil society is helping the community to survive the hardships of lockdown. It is important to mention that Al-Khidmat Foundation – a non-profit organization owned by a political party of Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami has initiated a ration-distributing Programme for the transgender community across the country. Government has recently announced Ehsas Programme across the country to help poor families in lockdown. It should also incorporate a specific quota of monetary assistance for transgender community in order to reduce their hardships.