June 27, 2023
By Shaukat Korai
Transgender activist Shahzadi Rai, made history by becoming among the first elected members of the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) on reserved seats for transgender persons. She contested for the election on the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ticket and shares this honour with Chandani Shah, who was elected as a KMC member on the Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) ticket.
Besides these two, Zehrish Khanzadi was also elected as a member of the Safoora Town Council on the PPP’s ticket as well.
Rai states that she has been interested in politics for many years now.
“I first joined politics to enhance the visibility of our community, but later I realized that we are not just struggling with an identity crisis. We have to fight for all of our rights.”
Rai says she has been vocal about her opinions on different political issues on social media and faced criticism for doing so.
“Whenever I express my opinion about Imran Khan, there is always a backlash on social media. They especially target my gender,” she told Voicepk.net. “People say, ‘What is even your value? People like you clap and beg all day on the corner of the street. We can buy you for just Rs. 500. How can you have your own opinion about politics?'”
She adds that when she entered the electoral process of the local government elections, she faced the same attitude from people. She says that her political opponents criticized her gender while targeting the PPP’s performance.
“What does my gender have to do with the PPP’s performance?”
she questions. “If I am criticizing your party’s performance, then in response you should criticize my party’s performance rather than attacking my gender identity. My gender has nothing to do with my party affiliation, so just leave it and respect it.”
The reserved seats for transgender persons in local government bodies were approved by the Sindh Cabinet in January 2017, paving the way for the transgender community to be part of the decision-making process.
However, Rai considers this as just the first drop of rain.
“It is just the beginning,” she says.
“The fight to obtain rights for transgender people is quite long. We have just laid the foundation.”
She hopes that the other provinces and federating units, including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, will follow Sindh’s footsteps and make changes in laws to bring the transgender community into decision-making positions in public bodies.
Rai believes that her community is facing a plethora of problems, and she will try to raise these issues on every platform. She says that her main focus will be to provide health and education facilities to the community.
“As an activist, I am already working on providing healthcare facilities to the community, and I have filed a writ petition in the Sindh High Court against the Civil Hospital Karachi for refusing to treat a few HIV-diagnosed transgender individuals,” she recounts. “The education policy for the transgender community is in its final stages, and it will soon be approved, opening doors for the community to excel. But my concern is that all this progress is happening only in Sindh. Where are the other provinces, and why is their legislation devoid of transgender problems?”