If you’re a defaulter and you know it, clap your hands



KARACHI: The very reason why society shuns them is now being used to bring them back into the fold. This is what the transgendered people of Karachi discovered when a few of them got jobs with the Clifton Cantonment Board helping it recover unpaid taxes by shaming the defaulters.

“Our frequent visits to the defaulters have led people to pay on time,” says 35-year-old Rimsha, who works for the CBC’s revenue generation department.

The CBC is happy with the results as well. “We have generated around Rs8.7 million within six months,” says Aziz Suharwardy, an official looking after the transgender project at the board. “They are hard workers and we have been witnessing positive results.”

The CBC had initially appointed six transgenders on a three-month probation period at a salary of Rs10,500. But the project was such a success that five more people were added to the team. Suharwardy expects that after their probation period they will get permanent jobs.

They are divided into two teams and each team deals with as many as 10 to 15 cases per day. They have documents, including copies of bills and court notices. If there is no response after they visit a defaulter the third time, the matter officially goes to court.

The team talks openly about the reactions they get from people who make no attempt to conceal their displeasure when they see them at their doorstep. “Some of the defaulters are so wary of us that they pay the outstanding amount in the form of cheques the moment they see us or they promise to come over to the CBC and pay the next day,” says Bebo.

People at the ‘giving’ end are not too happy with this new arrangement. “We are willing to pay the dues, but these transgenders have a created problem for the area,” says Dr Qayoom Malik, a resident of Phase II, DHA. “They dance and shout at our doors, which I think is quite unethical.”

In a bid to equalise their status in society, the Supreme Court gave a landmark ruling in July last year saying that they too had citizenship rights. “When I came to Karachi, I never thought that we would be given equal rights,” says 25-year-old Bebo who left her home in Shikarpur 10 years ago to look for a job in the metropolis. She used to work as a hairstylist at a salon for Rs5,000 a month. She had to accept this meagre salary even though she is a graduate.

Now, with her 11 co-workers, she works hard at her new government job. “This job has really enhanced our social status and now we have a major stake in making decisions within our family,” says Hasina.

Bebo, Hasina and Rimsha all have one thing in common - many people are hesitant to interact with them. Though they worked in different places, they share similar experiences of exploitation and castigation.

Despite the new, respectable job, Hasina says life is hard for her. She is treated badly on the bus and on the street. “Even with government employment, life on the street hasn’t changed much.”

In order to mitigate some of this stress while on the job, the CBC’s revenue chief Mohammed Ali has provided them an escort. “They normally go with one official from the revenue department and sometimes, security guards as well,” he adds.

According to Sarah Gill, of the Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA), herself a medical student at Jinnah Medical and Dental College, there are around 15,000 transgenders in the city and out of which 3,500 are registered.

According to her, the Sindh government’s social welfare department is creating a problem with their registration, otherwise most of them are willing to come forward. “There is no employment quota for them,” she points out. Bringing them on the radar will mean that more of them could seek help with jobs as otherwise no one is ready to gainfully employ them. Many transgenders eke out an existence with menial house jobs and it is not uncommon for them to be forced into prostitution.

Following the directives of the Supreme Court, the CBC had asked GIA to help with the appointment of a team. “Now five more of us have been inducted by the Faisal Base Cantonment and the Sindh industries minister has also assured us that 20 of our colleagues will be given jobs,” says Gill.

Thus, despite the irony that they are using public embarrassment as a weapon, this group of plucky transgenders aren’t ashamed to look forward to a regular paycheque and a little clout.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2010.

COMMENTS (12)

TRIKONE | 11 years ago | Reply Trikone is a registered non-profit organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of South Asian descent..Hindu from India...Muslims from Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and Iraq. We salute the the strides our transgender brothers and sisters are making. Its is programs like this that can spotlight more assistance for transgender people. We are in awe, that Pakistan with the Supreme Court gave a landmark ruling in July last year saying that they too had citizenship rights. In America it has taken us many years to achieve this, and we congratulate Pakistan for stepping up.
Bebo Hyder | 11 years ago | Reply finally the struggle of the transgender people for their rights has taken its turn by gettting jobs. Its really good news and hope other organizations will follow the CBC and Faisal Cantt
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