Transgender citizens are arguably among the most vulnerable and the most discriminated against groups in the country. Three years ago, the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, ordered that transgenders were to be granted a two per cent job quota in government departments as well as all the rights that a Pakistani citizen is entitled to under the Constitution. But since then, little has practically changed and access to employment and equal rights remains a grave problem. A feature published in this newspaper’s magazine looked into what has changed since the 2012 Supreme Court order. It highlighted the life of one, Riffie Khan, who has a double master’s degree but earns a mere Rs15,000 a month and has been forced to leave her job many times because of discriminatory practices. Most transgender citizens suffer through similar discrimination because of which even those with an education are often forced to beg on the streets or limit their job portfolio to that of wedding dancers. The federal and provincial governments have clearly failed to implement the Court ruling.
While transgender citizens are readily called to joyous events, such as weddings and births, they are largely looked down upon with contempt and ridicule. This clearly highlights the regressive mindsets that have developed in our society through the ages, which has given rise to discriminatory practices of the worst sort. The way to counter this mindset is to be more inclusive towards all genders. We need third gender citizens on our TV screens as news readers, anchors or actors to ‘normalise’ their presence. We need to welcome them readily into our homes, offices and schools. Given that the Supreme Court ruling was only three years ago and prior to this, transgender citizens did not even have the right to vote, there is a need to implement and, in fact, increase the job quota set aside for them. In addition, quotas for education scholarships in schools as well as when it comes to admissions to educational institutions must also be set aside for them. This may, in time, help reduce the impact of years of societal exploitation.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2015.