The state has solutions to offer but only on paper, as little has been done for the rights of people who are transgender in Pakistan.
This was discussed on the second day of the 7th Karachi Literature Festival at the session, titled ‘Transgender Rights: Are There Any’. “People say we are involved in sex work, as people from our community have been seen walking on the streets past midnight,” said Gender Interactive Alliance founding member Bindya Rana. “But has anyone asked us if we have ailing parents back at home or the reason why people from our community resort to such options.”
Reconstructing lost hijra identity with Laxmi Tripathi
Force and bias
In the subcontinent, people who are transgender are labelled with stereotypes and their existence is seen with bias. “If a poor person’s child dances then the place becomes a brothel but, if a rich person’s child does the same, that is called art,” Rana added.
Transgender people are forced to choose either to be identified as a woman or a man. “When we go to vote, there is no separate line for us, we do not mind standing in the men’s queue but then they say we are not men and send us to the women’s one,” said Rana. “They, too, tell us the same, that we are not women. Either give us the right to choose or make a third line for us.”
Kami, who also works for transgender rights, said that just because a person cannot fit into the male or female gender, they are pushed out of their houses into a world where there are many doors open, where there are people who encourage them to bring about a change. “A newborn baby is dear to its mother regardless of its sex but the men of the household force her to get the child out of the house.”
Away from crowd
Journalist Reema Abbasi mentioned that an initiative has recently been taken up at National College of Arts, where they have decided to appoint transgender people to run canteens for now. As she spoke about people who are born with genitals that do not put them in the social definition of being a man or a woman, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi helps her with the right choice of words, saying, “We are people who are born with ambiguous genitals.”
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Tripathi is a transgender rights activist from India. She first told the audience that the word ‘she-male’ that is used for their community is a pornographic word and such words should not be associated with any community.
However, about the rights and life of people who are transgender, she shared that substantial work has been done in India. “A grand cheila [student] of mine was enrolled at a university and the state is sponsoring her education,” she said. “She demanded a separate accommodation and was given that too.”
When the construction of a separate block in the prison of Kerala, India, was lauded during the session, Tripathi questioned why it is being assumed that there will be many transgender criminals. “First give rights, and then give us space in prisons.” She added if a person who is a transgender has the option to become a sweeper, doctor and to opt for any profession easily, then they will not go for illegal options.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.
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