March 21st, 2022
By Xari Jalil
In the most recent attack on Friday, transgender Mano was brutally shot and murdered in Jehangir Bazaar in Peshawar.
SILENCE AGAINST HATE CRIMES
Aurat March activists in their press statement said that the inaction by the administration and the silence of the KP government towards these horrifying hate crimes was only serving to strengthen transphobic elements within society. They added that many predators also remained at large thanks to low conviction rates.
Trans activist, Mehlab Jameel said that the Transgender Protection Act 2018 must be implemented at provincial levels with effective monitoring and oversight mechanisms.
She added that the police needed to take trans people seriously especially when they went in to report threats.
“No one operates randomly and the police never take these threats seriously,” she said. “There is usually a whole campaign of intimidation and threats in the cases where transgenders become a target of violence. When a trans person does not comply with demands, (as in the case of Gul Panra in 2020 and Alisha in 2016) they resort to violence,” she says.
‘IT HAS TO STOP’
According to Aarzu, a Peshawer based activist who leads the trans-rights organization Manzil, Samir had suddenly left the hospital where she was getting treatment just a day before she died.
“She knew that media would be present and they were coming to film – especially social media and because of some personal issues she did not want to be on screen,” explains Aarzu. “Samir was a very low profile person, not even wearing feminine clothes most of the time.”
Currently however her body has been taken back by her parents for burial in their native village of Batal (Mansehra). Her funeral prayers have been scheduled for 4 pm on Tuesday.
“Such violent incidents happen to us all the time,” she says. “H* another transgender was shot hard at and her leg was affected badly after the bullet went through her knee. “But despite this violence, we are regarded as nobodies,” she said. “Living in this society, we are not even regarded as humans.”
Aarzu says that not only is the society not accepting of them, but when a transperson names someone for targetting them, they are blackmailed and harassed, even killed.
Aarzu says there are proper ‘gangs’ who attack them. When one rises, he is supported by several others. And all of the accused or perpetrators are roaming around scot-free.
One other problem is the widespread use of drugs – not only is this criminal and harmful, but it also ends up in erratic behaviour and mood swings which often follow with violent and aggressive behaviour on both sides – transpersons and their (male) friends.
“Ice and meth are common here – maybe rs3000 to Rs4000 a packet, and they end up using it, and then arguing, fighting physically over small issues. Much of this is money-related. Male friends often also get jealous especially if she is a performer, or they demand money and she won’t give them any. Things like these end up in so many transwomen being murdered.”
Alisha, Nazo (whose murderer is now free), Gul Panra and others have become prominent cases arising from KP. Aarzu says she herself has also received several threats and continues to have people intimidate her for her activism. She adds that the role of the police is minimal, or as a silent spectator.
AURAT MARCH DEMANDS
In a press statement, the AM Karachi and Lahore branches said, “The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government remains silent. The federal government appears to have no interest. The district administration sits quietly. The police register cases but the accused are let go on bail. Why? Why are the authorities failing in their job to protect the khawajasira community? Why has there not been a systematic crackdown against these organized cartels of violence that specifically target the khawajasira community? Why is this not news yet? Why are major outlets not talking about this violence in their bulletins? Why are the lips of the state and Prime Minister Imran Khan sealed? And why has the mainstream media aided their silence on this issue?
We need answers. Why is the right to life of our khawajasira sisters vehemently and violently denied?”
They listed some demands which they said must be implemented as soon as possible.
1. The state respond to harassment complaints in a timely and transparent manner rather than waiting for bloodshed to take place.
2. The state establish and immediately enforce protection mechanisms for transgender persons under threat, as per the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.
3. The state systematically crackdown on organized groups of violence against transgender persons and the khwajasira community.
4. The state work on the strengthening and sensitization of systems, such as healthcare and welfare, to ensure that survivors of transphobic violence are provided immediate and long-term care.
5. The state end its violence on the khawajasira community through moral policing and the criminalization of their livelihoods.
6. The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), and the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) take immediate notice of the alarming rates of violence against the khawajasira community across Pakistan—especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—and undertake a systematic inquiry into all aspects of cases which are reported (whether on the media, to the police, or otherwise).
7. Media and civil society actors work together to combat violence against the khwaja sirah community by adequately and sensitively reporting on cases of violence against them. This includes ensuring that the language used does not perpetuate prejudices and harmful stereotypes about the community, and the roots of this violence can be dismantled.
It is imperative that we collectively address the structures underpinning patriarchal violence as a systemic issue and find long-lasting solutions that go beyond the limited scope of the criminal justice system (which provides only temporary relief to victim-survivors). Our remedies must be survivor-centric and they should address the root causes of endemic patriarchal violence that threatens the safety and well-being of all vulnerable communities living within Pakistan, especially the Khwaja Sirah community.
Renowned Karachi based activist Sarah Zaman told Voicepk that this kind of violence only perpetuated the fact that all vulnerable bodies were under attack – whether it was girls, older women, minority women, gender-fluid persons or khwaja sirah community – they were all under threat.
“The problem of violence against transgenders is an old problem (Beela violence), but now because they are more organized, they are getting more media traction, and they are getting their point across,” says Zaman, adding that a major part of this problem was also police violence.
“The Transgender Protection Law 2018 must be implemented but the government is just not sensitized enough,” she says. “A lot of people from the transgender community are forced to earn through work that is condemned by state and the society, almost criminalized. From the time they are rejected from their homes for performing their gender, to trying to access health and education services, everything is a problem for them.”
The general solution to violence in this kind of informal work place is not to eliminate the workplace itself as the State often wants to do, but to enact protective mechanisms and ensure safety and dignity in the workplace.