A country in denial – Human Rights violation of transgender community in Pakistan

‘The General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights UNITED NATIONS)

Saima a local transgender from Rawalpindi

Saima a local transgender from Rawalpindi

This common notion of human rights deems that they are inherent to all human beings, that there are no divisions or discrimination among human beings. In practice, we see that humans are divided by gender/sex. In Pakistan when we look at these divisions, we see that rights are provided to males and females (somewhat unequally), but in relation to the transgender community the provision of rights remains controversial.


‘During the few past years the situation has changed somewhat. Transgender community had been denied of their rights but now there are programs which grant rights to them including protection, health and education’, says Qamar Naseem, a Peshawar based human rights activist.  ‘The protection policy grants the transgender community the basic rights of education, protection and health. This is changing the situation particularly in Peshawar’ says Taimoor Qamal working in Blue Veins media, a transgender based community in KPK. He further elaborates that ‘…the real problem still remains ahead which is the recent census of 2017. According to our estimates there are almost 1.5 million transgender people in Pakistan, there are 45-55,000 transgender in KPK alone while the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has calculated them to be only 10,418 throughout the whole Pakistan’. This is the real struggle for the transgender community where they must strive hard for their recognition. This journey may last longer than expected.

However, if we look at the few recent incidents we can see that there are other major problems that the transgender community still faces. Qamar Naseem points out that ‘During January 2017-August 2017 almost 53 transgender killings have been reported while 126 cases of violence against transgender community has been reported’. Adding to this, Taimoor Qamal says, that ‘…6 transgender had been abducted from Sawabi who were released by the police on 20th September’. ‘We can see a gradual awareness in our courts regarding transgender community when we look at the ID card and passport issuance policies but on ground level the change has yet to be developed’ Mr. Naseem contends, ‘…the issuance of health cards and the allocation of 2 crore for the transgender community in 2015-2016 budget may prove enough for the transgender community to make a difference’.

Whenever normal people beg or dance, they can opt it as their profession, but when we dance or beg, this becomes a moral sin. Even the police are there to put a ban on all our activities. All we are left with is death.

If we speak to the transgender themselves, they feel something else. Saima 28, a Rawalpindi based transgender says, ‘We are the ones who are living with real trouble. We are not allowed proper jobs and so we have to beg. But even then, begging is forbidden for us. Whenever normal people beg or dance, they can opt it as their profession, but when we dance or beg, this becomes a moral sin. Even the police are there to put a ban on all our activities. All we are left with is death.’

Chandni, Saima’s fellow shares ‘We are proud Pakistanis, we are proud to be born as Muslims. Islam being the religion of equality teaches us the lesson of impartiality, but this is not really what we practice, when we are not allowed to dance just to make our both ends meet but our counterparts, the professional dancers, are allowed to do so. Where is the justice that Islam gives? This is the sad reality of our system when it comes to justice.’

This is not justice when the champions of righteousness, the police, killed a transgender who being an innocent person had committed a single mistake of being a transgender

Saima says ‘We live in a rented house, which is the only place where we live as normal beings but the outside world is full of miseries that waits for us daily’. She continues ‘We have to face dozens of rotted people on streets while we beg. Some are good enough who give us money without saying a word while there is a majority who curses us even when we knock at their doors, while few are those who do not accept our existence and throw trash at us.’ Saima shares the story of her fellow transgender who was friendly with a policeman. She was killed by him because she refused to obey him. Is this what we call justice? This is not justice when the champions of righteousness, the police, killed a transgender who being an innocent person had committed a single mistake of being a transgender. But even then, this might not be her choice of becoming a transgender because this is the way she was actually created by nature. Saima is of the view that ‘…no organization or government personnel has taken any initiative for the betterment of transgender community. When Supreme Court ordered to allot transgenders their National Identity Cards, only few were issued. This step was made possible solely by the efforts of our Guru Almas Bobby.’ Saima shares a pessimistic but a sad truth for her community that ‘…no government and non-governmental organization has done anything for us and nothing will be done till the world lives on.’

Saima - a local transgender from Islamabad

Saima – a local transgender from Islamabad

Muhammad Ali Awan, a PhD scholar from Germany is presently conducting research on Human Rights granted to Transgender in Pakistan, he maintains ‘It is our culture of alienating transgender from our societies. They are compelled to leave their houses and beg on the streets. For this reason, they have to migrate to different areas where they become prostitutes and are sexually abused. The real struggle for them starts at an early age because there is no childhood identity construction of transgender in Pakistan’ He further gives the solution to the current problems being faced by the transgender community that ‘…the real support system is needed. Organizations like the United Nations who are not openly working for them should come forward and make a stance regarding the transgender community worldwide.’ Further, it is our moral responsibility to recognize and grant transgender of their basic rights. If we look at our socio-culture history where transgender have been given jobs in harems as eunuchs, it becomes our responsibility to restore to them their original rights. Then, there should be allocation of quota in jobs and education so that they can live as normal human beings.

By our correspondent Zeba Shahnaz, Islamabad. Zeba Shahnaz is a student of BS International Relations at School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.


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