Hundreds of transgenders staged a protest demonstration in front of the assembly chambers on Saturday. They claimed that they were being harassed by the Social Welfare Department.
Earlier, the protesters had gathered at Lahore Press Club. They took out a rally that ended at the assembly, where they held a sit-in.
Neeli Rana, the Khawaja Sara Society president, said that the Social Welfare Department had arrested dozens of transgenders.
“If the society can do nothing for us, they should at least let us earn our livelihood. We are not given any jobs. We have nothing to do other than beg for alms. The government should have done something to provide us jobs before starting the crackdown,” she said.
She said that they should be treated as equal citizens. “A job-quota for transgenders should be introduced in all departments. The government should open community centers to provide vocational training to members of our community,” she said.
She also criticised the NADRA of demanding medical certificates for issuance of identity cards to transgenders. “The society should stop stigmatising us. The NADRA practice is discriminatory,” she said.
Another protester, Kiran, said that they had no employment opportunities so they had to make a living through beggary.
Ambar, a spokesperson for the Social Welfare Department, said that the district government was arresting beggars without discrimination. “We keep all beggars arrested by the district government at social welfare centres. Our role is to train and rehabilitate them,” she said.
Imran Maqbool, a spokesperson for the Lahore DCO, said that a crackdown had been started against people who begged on roads. “We arrest only those who beg on public roads. They hinder flow of traffic and paint a negative image of the society,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2015.