KARACHI: In a bid to highlight visibility of the transgender community and their work in the upcoming general elections, a seminar was organised to include maximum numbers of transgender persons as election observers in the upcoming elections.
The Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA) in partnership with Free and Fair Election Networking (FAFEN) organised the seminar to raise awareness for transgender persons to participate in the elections at the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) office on Monday.
Shehzadi Rai, a transgender activist working for the rights of transgender persons hosted the seminar.
Rai said the appointment of 125 transgender persons across Pakistan for electoral monitoring and observation tomorrow (Wednesday) is a big step towards promoting transgender visibility and inclusion into its democratic spaces.
Rai added that the transgender community has struggled for decades to get the representation they have now. She requested the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to add a 2% reserve seat quota for the transgender community in the National Assembly to better represent their issues and formalise legislation for the welfare of their community, just like religious minorities and women are able to.
The NCHR representative, Anis Haroon, said, “It is a great accomplishment for the transgender community to get formal recognition as a community in such a short span of time.”
“Despite the success, more effective work is required to be done on the ground. According to the last census, there are only 10,000 transgender persons in Pakistan which I believe is clearly an incorrect representation of a community which in Karachi alone represents more than that figure,” said Haroon.
She pointed out that only 1,300 transgender persons are registered voters in Karachi. She hoped that the ECP would take notice of this matter and update their election data so that the transgender community could be accurately represented and a more concerted effort can be directed towards ensuring jobs and facilities for this marginalised community.
Highlighting the valuable work the 125 transgender election observers will be performing, Haroon said, “As part of the elections’ observation and monitoring work, they will be making sure that the polling stations are a safe environment for not only the transgender community but for women and persons with disabilities.”
According to Haroon, observers must ensure that there is zero tolerance towards discrimination of women and other minorities at polling stations.
“Persons with disabilities must be given special focus and polling stations must be checked for special ramps as promised by the ECP,” she said.
Nomi Bashir, an independent candidate contesting from NA-244 said, “It’s an honour for me to be with my own people today because the transgender persons and their endless commitment towards fighting for their rights is something that is highly commendable and inspires me.”
Bashir said if she is able to win the next election, she would fight for the transgender community with the same passion and vigour that motivates her to fight for the rights of women and other minorities.