Saris swirl at rare transgender 'birthday' party in Peshawar

Published: January 25, 2017
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Members of the transgender community attend Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Members of the transgender community attend Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

 Shakeela, a member of the transgender community,  lights a cigarette as she prepares for her party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22,  2017. PHOTO: REUTERS  Make up lies on the floor as members of the transgender community prepare for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22,  2017. PHOTO: REUTERS Chahat, a member of the transgender community, prepares for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22,  2017. PHOTO: REUTERS Security searches guests as people arrive at Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22,  2017. PHOTO: REUTERS  Bubbly helps Shakeela with her dress  as members of the transgender community prepare for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22,  2017. PHOTO: REUTERS Shakeela, a member of the transgender community. PHOTO: REUTERS Guests cut a cake at Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22,  2017. PHOTO: REUTERS Members of the transgender community attend Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

PESHWAR: At a party in Peshawar, the guests’ saris twirled as they danced to the music and fed each other pieces of cake, but armed police guarding the door indicated this was no normal carefree birthday gathering.

Guests cut a cake at Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Guests cut a cake at Shakeela’s party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

The revelers were transgender, people who run the risk of violence. Transgenders often work as dancers at weddings and other parties but are rarely allowed to hold their own celebrations.

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Chahat, a member of the transgender community, prepares for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chahat, a member of the transgender community, prepares for Shakeela’s party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

“It’s the first time in a decade that we have openly hosted such a function,” said Farzana Jan, a leader of Trans Action Pakistan, a campaign group that estimates there are at least 500,000 transgender people in the country of 190 million.

Shakeela, a member of the transgender community. PHOTO: REUTERS

Shakeela, a member of the transgender community. PHOTO: REUTERS

City authorities usually refuse permission for transgender parties, and police often raid them. But an incident last year, when a transgender activist died after being shot six times and then denied treatment at a Peshawar hospital, seems to have softened attitudes.

Security searches guests as people arrive at Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Security searches guests as people arrive at Shakeela’s party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

While there was no written permission for the party on Sunday, there was no ban and police provided security at the front door, patting down guests to search for weapons and blocking those without invitations.

 Shakeela, a member of the transgender community, rests at her home in Peshawar, Pakistan January 23, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Shakeela, a member of the transgender community, rests at her home in Peshawar, Pakistan January 23, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

The event was 40-year-old Shakeela’s ‘birthday’ party, an event to celebrate the life of a transgender person in middle-age, with guests expected to bring gifts of money to help the person to start a small business or project. Every transgender person is supposed to get a “birthday party” once in their lives, according to people at the event.

 Make up lies on the floor as members of the transgender community prepare for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Make up lies on the floor as members of the transgender community prepare for Shakeela’s party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

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“I was afraid that I may not be able to experience this occasion, as it took us a lot of time to convince authorities to allow us to host it,” Shakeela told Reuters. “This is the first and last birthday of my life. It is an important, and the happiest, occasion of my life.”

 A member of the transgender community dances at a party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

A member of the transgender community dances at a party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

In much of Pakistan, transgender people are shunned by their families and forced into begging or prostitution to support themselves. Most change their names or use only one name. However, in recent years there has slowly been greater recognition of their rights.

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 Bubbly helps Shakeela with her dress as members of the transgender community prepare for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Bubbly helps Shakeela with her dress as members of the transgender community prepare for Shakeela’s party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

This month, a court ruled that transgender people would be counted in the national census for the first time. In 2012, the Supreme Court declared equal rights for transgender citizens. A year earlier they were allowed to vote. But activists say they have a long way to go before they attain full rights and freedom from persecution.

 Shakeela, a member of the transgender community, lights a cigarette as she prepares for her party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Shakeela, a member of the transgender community, lights a cigarette as she prepares for her party in Peshawar, Pakistan January 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

[brid video=”108745″ player=”7247″ title=”Saris swirl at rare transgender ‘birthday’ party in Peshawar”]

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Reader Comments (1)

  • Sam
    Jan 25, 2017 - 9:30PM

    Beautiful story ! Tribune Zindabad!!!Recommend

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