Festival highlights marginalisation of transgender people

Published: April 2, 2017

LAHORE : A four-day International minorities’ festival, aimed at gender diversity and acceptability in Pakistan, will conclude on Sunday (today) at Olompolo Media.

Around 27 feature and short-length documentaries were screened alongside discussion sessions on diverse topics. Panellists spoke about minorities and marginalised transgender communities.

Organised by Aks International, the festival focused on feminist movements, transgender rights, historical existence of gender diversity in South Asia, wars in the name of religion, gender fluidity in Asia and ‘artivism’ (art combined with activism).

Manual entry for transgender people in census forms

The event will continue in Islamabad and Karachi, respectively. The International Transgender Day of visibility was marked across the world on March 31.

Jannat Ali, art curator and the festival coordinator in Lahore, said it was important to raise awareness through films and dialogues. “Aks Festival not only builds the capacity of the community members and sensitises them about minority movements, but also creates stronger alliances.”

As for future aspirations, Jannat hopes the Aks Festival will work as a bigger platform for minorities to have an environment or open dialogue.

Neeli Rana, head of communication and founder of Aks Festival, said the event was very important for the transgender community because it gives them a chance to discuss never talked of issues.

“This is a unique platform which celebrates diversity, tolerance and acceptability, while working towards building bridges through peaceful dialogues,” said Neeli.

A glimpse into the lives of Karachi’s transgenders

The festival was organised by minority transgender community members to make sure that they have full accessibility at all levels, she said. Neeli added the event has helped her to work with her community on a closer level, while also developing knowledge through international cinema.

“We feel more aware over the struggles of people like us in other parts of the world and how they are coping to make life easier,” she said.

Neeli said she wanted the festival to expand to other small cities of the country, ensuring accessibility to those who could not visit Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad.

During a discussion session on court eunuchs, faqirs and transgender people, the panellists discussed the situation in South Asia.

According to them, the community is often marginalised, subjected to violence and looked at suspiciously by society.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2017.

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