Society still letting down transgender community, lament speakers

Efforts made to help the community lack sustainability, they say


After almost 70 years, since Pakistan’s independence, the state has taken steps to give equal rights to the transgender community, however, despite the measures they are still denied their due role in society.

Pakistani society faces a huge issue of the denial of gender diversity and many non-governmental organisations have been established to create awareness but they lack practicality or sustainability in delivering their promises.

At a panel discussion and seminar organised on Thursday by Actcept at the Institute of Business Management, journalist Mubashir Zaidi said the transgender community is alienated in our society.

NGOs working in the interest of the transgender community would rather spend money organising events at five star hotels than offering that money to community members in need, he lamented.

Huge campaigns are held in efforts to create awareness for the protection of the transgender community’s rights but these efforts often lack sustainability. False promises have become a part of these initiatives and need to be addressed.

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An LLB graduate, Nisha Rao, who is a transgender rights activist was also present at the event and said she has been struggling to pay for her courses but none of the NGOs she went to helped her, even in purchasing course books.

Talking about the current status of acceptance for the community, journalist and documentary filmmaker Sabeen Agha said equal rights are enshrined in our Constitution for every citizen and no law differentiates between women, men or members of the transgender community. They have the right to live, speak, express and travel like anyone else, she added.

In 2009, Pakistan became one of the few countries in the world to give members of the community national identity cards, which makes them eligible for many jobs, allows them to rent and own property and have inheritance rights. There is an option of gender X in the issuance of passports as well now.

However, societal issues still exist due to lack of education. Their existence is denied on a social level.

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Agha said a law was passed in the National Assembly, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2017, under which medical boards are not required to check medical reports for issuing identity cards to transgender persons. “But why do we need laws when we have the Constitution?” she asked.

Nearly 79% of the community is uneducated due to high school dropout rates and 83% engage in otherwise objectionable professions due to lack of opportunities. Thus, there is a need for acceptance on a social level to provide them different skill-sets and create employment prospects.
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