Give The Transgenders Their Rights
Equality and non-discrimination on the basis of gender is guaranteed to the citizens of Islamic Republic of Pakistan by its Constitution, but the transgenders have always remained an exception to its Article 25. They are called ‘kowajasira’ in Pakistan and are often seen at traffic signals. It would not be wrong to say that all transgenders in Pakistan have the same fate – to ask for alms – as we leave them with no other option.
Alesha, one of those 46 transgenders who have since the beginning of 2016 been brutally killed in ‘naya’ Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was shot six times for being who SHE was. She was immediately taken to the hospital by her fellows, but doctors refused to treat her for the same reasons for which she was shot. She had to be dragged from the men’s ward to the women’s ward and then towards the lavatory, and finally breathed her last and got freedom from the pain which was certainly more than the pain of those six bullets.
So is there no place for transgenders in ‘naya’ Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?! So many vows were made, but all were merely verbal (with no bona fide intention to fulfill them) – just like the ’90 day promises’. “Sehat Ka Insaf”, a scheme worth 20 billion, which was to “provide suitable basic health facilities”, was launched by Imran Khan two years back. So many claims were made regarding it, but it too failed to save Alesha. No government representative came forward for her help except for the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but it was already too little too late.
It is usually among the top priorities of parents in Pakistan to see their child grow up to be a doctor, as doctors are considered to be much respected and sometimes even worshipped like some angels in our society; after all they are our “life-savers”. But what eventually happened? Why did they turned into heartless beasts in Alesha’s case? Are they solely to be blamed? Well… actually, no. We as a society are to be blamed. We as parents try to hide our children’s characteristics from the whole world as if they are some sort of dishonour for us. We as school administrations do not grant them admissions as we worry, not for the future of these unique kids, but for the business that parents of other children would bring to us instead of preferring to take it to some other school. Furthermore, when we go for family outings and if any transgenders come up to us to ask for alms, we laugh at them instead of helping them and in doing so we are teaching our kids to do the same. Transgenders are also invited to weddings to entertain people (the only job – other that begging – that they are left with), but we do not miss any opportunity to snatch away their own smiles, and mock and degrade them every chance we get.
Having a CNIC (Computerized National Identity Card) means having the right to employment, the right to dignity (Art.14 of the Constitution), the right to hold, acquire, (inherit) and dispose of property (Art. 23, 24), the right to be in public services/office (Art. 27), the right to be a parliamentarian and most importantly, the right to education (Art. 25A). It is ignominious that for more than six decades we have been violating the supreme law of our land and been depriving the transgenders of not just the CNIC but of all these fundamental rights.
In these six decades, governments came and went, but politics remained the main focus in every era. Following the remarkable and historic judgment of the Supreme Court, it was the Pakistan People’s Party government that gave transgenders an identity and the right to be recognized and vote as the ‘third gender’. The judgment of SC clearly stated that they should not be deprived of jobs any further. However, only the province of Sindh has acted upon this and has been appreciated as well by then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhry [2013 SCMR 187]. In compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court, the Sindh government (of Pakistan People’s Party) appointed three transgenders – Abdul Rauf alias Rafi Khan, Mazhar Anjum and Muskan – in the social welfare department of the government.
Though many of them now have Computerized National Identity Cards, yet the suffering, trauma and agony of the transgender community continues unabated. Why? Because there is no proper legislation to back their rights. Seven years have been passed since the Supreme Court ruling (in which it was clearly directed that the government will legislate a law in their (transgenders’) favour - constitution petition No. 49 of 2009), but none of our lawmakers cared to table a legislation for the transgenders.
These transgenders are Pakistanis, they bleed ‘green’ too; should they not have their representatives in parliament as well? In 2013, many members of this community were able to get their own CNICs, but not even a single political party felt like giving them a ticket. Even in the recently held local bodies elections, many very keen to contest, but no party made any of them a candidate.
The state refuses to own these transgenders and that is the main reason families also refuse to own their transgender child. As a state, we need to own them, bring laws to ensure the provision of their rights, and give them jobs and protection at workplaces. We must stop depriving them of the right to life. We should learn something from our neighbouring country India; which has recently appointed a transgender as the principal of a college; where many transgenders are working as models and have their own music bands; those who are in educational institutions – their expenses are borne by the state; furthermore many transgenders are working in law enforcement agencies as police inspectors, etc. and even get hired by the government to collect taxes. Such examples are hard to find today, even in very moderate countries.
We need to set such examples.
Let the transgenders live their lives. Their rights and their choices do matter. They do not bleed less ‘green’.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.