ISLAMABAD: Nearly a week after Pakistan made headlines worldwide for issuing a passport with gender marked “X” to a transgender person, a video has emerged documenting the appalling and shameful harassment of a pair of transgender women in Murree during the Eid holidays.
The two-minute video, circulated widely on social media, show two transgender women stuck in the middle of a group of mostly young men on Murree’s crowded Mall Road who are verbally and sexually harassing the women, while passers-by look on and laugh instead of coming to their aid.
In the clip, the transwomen, who could not be identified, can be seen terrified, crying and screaming as they try to escape from the group of men who were calling them names, hurling abuses and trying to touch their bodies in the middle of the busy road as Eid vacationers pass by.
Even as the women manage to walk out of the circle, the group of harassers follow one of them down the road, violently pulling at her arms, invading her personal space, embracing her and continuing to touch her inappropriately.
Note: This video contains explicit language
Faris Qureshi, a young student who filmed the video on the second day of Eid and uploaded it on YouTube, told The Express Tribune the harassment went for a while before a few people came to rescue the transwomen and took them to the police control room. However, no policeman was present there at that time.
“This group of men was following them [the transwomen] for some 10 to 15 minutes on Mall Road,” said Qureshi. “Then there came a point where they actually tried to sexually assault them in the middle of the road by holding one of them tight and touching her private parts.”
When contacted, City Police Officer Israr Ahmed Khan Abbasi told The Express Tribune that the police were “completely unaware” of this incident.
“On the second day of Eid we all were busy in controlling traffic and the crowd in Murree,” he claimed. “If any one of the victims of the sexual assault comes to us and registers a complaint against the people who sexually harassed them, we will definitely take up the issue and try to take action against them.”
A boy seen in the video pulling a transwoman by her arm. PHOTO: Screengrab
Despite small gains for the transgender community like being issued a CNIC, being counted in the national census and more recently being able to get a passport made, they continue to face discrimination and fall prey to sexual harassment and assault mainly because of the absence of a law to protect their rights. Each day it is becoming difficult for them to live with dignity and honour as equal citizens of Pakistan.
“Whether it is Independence Day or Eid, we are constantly scared of going out to be a part of the celebrations because they we know that if we go to the markets or on the roads, people will harass us,” Laila, a transwoman told The Express Tribune. “We are also Muslims and Pakistanis but are deprived of the right to celebrate our religious and national festivals.”
She added, “If we go out on the roads during these festivals, people think it is a part of their celebrations to sexually harass us. They follow us, make fun of us. They treat us like an entertainment commodity and forget that we are also human beings and have the same feelings as them.”
Malika, another transwoman, expressed her sorrow over being treated as less than a human being in the country. “Even if we go to the police, they refuse to register our sexual harassment complaints. Instead, they ask us how it is possible for us to be harassed,” she added.
Nadeem Kashish, the founder of the Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights (Safar), said such flagrant violation of transgenders’ rights is happening because there was no law in the country to protect them.
“If the police starts taking action against the people who sexually harass us in public places, it will make us feel more secure to step out,” Kashish added.
On behalf of the transgender community, Kashish appealed to Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take strict action against the men who harassed and manhandled the transwomen in Murree.