30 November 2022
On Day 6 of our 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, we highlight the plea of trans women and the Khwaja sira community. In Pakistan, transgender people were legally recognised as “the third gender” through a 2012 supreme court ruling. They were given the right to vote and identify their gender on National Identity Cards.
But discrimination is widespread and “honour” killings, rape, blackmail, sexual harassment, attacks, chopping off hair – are common crimes against khawaja sira community.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone more than 2,000 cases of violence on the transgender community were registered. The number of unreported cases are even larger as trans-women remain hesitant to report to police authorities as they may be subjected to further discrimination and abuse if not violence.
Arzoo khan, President of the Transgender Person Association Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also urged the authorities to establish a special desk in every police station to assist transgenders and swift registration of FIRs in cases of violence against the community.
“In most instances, a crime against trans persons are committed late at night when they return from the functions (which they attend for livelihood). They are often abducted, raped, and in some cases murdered cold-bloodedly,” she added, “But many of our community members don’t have adequate knowledge about their legal rights so I think government and state should assist them in taking legal action.”
According to Khan, hundreds of transgender experience torture every year but most of the perpetrators of these crimes go scot-free and then they come out of the prison and threatens us again.
Transgender rights activists have demanded the government to make the crime against their community non-compoundable as most of the victims do not have the resources or courage to pursue cases in the court.
In April 2018, the Protection of Transgenders Act was enacted after the passage of the Transgender Person Protection of Rights Bill 2018 from the Senate and the National Assembly, but the four provinces have so far failed to take practical steps to implement it.
Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act 2018
The National Assembly had enacted the Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act to provide transgender persons with legal recognition and to penalize any discrimination against them.
The law was made after the Supreme Court held on Sept 25, 2012 that Khwaja Sira persons were entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The verdict came after a petition by Islamic jurist, Dr Mohammad Aslam Khaki, seeking emancipation of “hermaphrodite children” so that instead of begging, dancing and prostitution they could earn a living by “honourable means”.
However, recent campaigns against the community have put the law under attack as ring-wing fractions who accuse the law of promoting homosexuality. Speaking at the Asma Jahangir Conference, trans activists rejected these accusations and reiterated their right of participation and security as equal citizens under the Constitution of Pakistan.