Nature distinguishes and a man discriminates. The major chunk of the problem lies within the norms and values which people have instilled or infused in a society. There are almost 300,000 members of the transgender community, also known as “Khawaja Sira’s” or “Hijras”, in our country. They get harassed, abused, discriminated and sometimes get raped as well. The problem doesn’t only lie within the law but also in the society that we live in. They bear the brunt of some of the worst discrimination because of social unacceptability. This is not the case only within Pakistan but also with the progressive countries like the United States of America, where the President himself announced to ban transgenders in the army of the United States.
It is the responsibility of the state to protect each and every individual from discrimination and harassment, and to protect individual rights through legislation or by any possible source. There’s a legal maxim “Justice delayed is the justice denied”. It took us 65 years after the freedom just to recognize the gender of transgenders, just to recognize their existence, just to recognize them; yes, they feel it. Before the judgement passed by the CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Khawaja Sira’s were a living dead.
Moving on, the state introduced the quota system for the transgender community for government jobs, etc. This may seem like a positive step towards progress and social acceptability but I call it a systematic discrimination or an easy way out. I would like to compare it with the colonial regime in South Africa, under the Bantu Education Act 1953, where separate schools and education system was introduced for the Black people. It looks like they got their right to education but they were systematically discriminated from the British people who were studying in different schools. By giving those opportunities through quota system will not eliminate the actual problem. In fact, it still creates a taboo that they are inferior and weaker part of the society.
To eliminate the problem, the state must legislate to cut the problem at its roots. The state must make laws which can create social acceptability of the third gender and break down the mafias behind the exploitation of transgenders for their own personal benefits. In a country like Pakistan, mostly you will see a transgender begging on the streets, indulged in prostitution and speaking with a specific style. Is every transgender born into a poor family? No! Parents disown them and give them to the community which adopts them and later on exploit them for their own benefits or, with an optimistic approach, it can be said that they have to do this due to the shortage of resources or help.
Laws must be made to punish those who disown their children and those who exploit them and create a taboo by making them do specific activities. When these restrictions will be imposed, things will be normal in a long run. Even if parents had disowned them, orphanages must adopt that child, keep and educate them like the other children. It will create acceptability in the future because since childhood, they will be living together with the other male and female children and there will not be any awkwardness. Campaigns by the State and NGO’s can be of great help. There’s a psychological phenomenon: when you start hearing one thing repeatedly, you start believing it or accepting it as truth. This taboo can easily be desensitized through such campaigns.
Solely, the state is not to be held liable every time. One must feel pity for the those who don’t know about their rights and this is due to the lack of education; the responsibility of which again lies on the organs of the state. Again, it connects the strings with the social acceptability and the law. They don’t move out from their homes or don’t join schools and jobs because of social unacceptability and the responsibility lies on the state to make laws to end such taboos and social problems within a society, which may lead to destruction.
Once Kamran Arif, Vice-president of Independent Human Rights, wrote that the society is becoming intolerant and people are facing discrimination due to the Madrassas and religious schools but I totally disagree. As above, I gave an example of The President of the United States who does not follow any “Madrassas” or “Muftis”. The President proposed to ban transgender community from the US army. On the other hand, Mufti’s or religious scholars in Pakistan gave a FATWA that transgenders can marry each other.
At the end of the day, intolerance or unacceptability is not due to the religion but due to the norms and values which people, their culture and their law instil in a society. To eliminate it, State and NGO’s will have to work in a proper direction to end such taboos and create social acceptability which is the solution to this problem.
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