After all, they are humans

Iftikhar Khan

PESHAWAR, 10 December: Hurt by the indifferent attitude of the society, Alisha, a transgender, finally decided to come to the street for her rights.

“The society doesn’t accept us,” she complained. “At least we should be recognized as disabled or special persons by the society,” Alisha maintained in an upset tone.

She was among many other transgenders who staged a protest camp outside the Peshawar Press Club here against the government’s inability of providing them their due rights.

“I left home to avoid being ridiculed but even then people use to come to our abodes and make fun of us on one pretext or the other. We are the most vulnerable segment of the society but none of the government provides us our due rights,” she lamented.

It was interesting to know Alisha had educated till 12th grade. “Once I applied for a job in the municipal corporation but when I went there for the interview, they made fun of me and laughed at me,” she added.

She was upset at her family’s attitude too as she had been abandoned by her father and brothers. Only her mother and sisters keep contact with her. “If you are not respected by the family, the society does not care about you, she said.”

Like many others, dancing is the sole source of earning for Alisha and she shares this money with her sisters and mother because they are her only “well wishers” in the entire family.

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Another transgender, who calls herself ‘Chocolate’ had lot of grievances. She said the attitude of government institutions and functionaries was also not cordial towards them.

“The CNICs which were issued to some of us by the NADRA having our gender as “shemale” are blocked now,” she said.

“Likewise, someone attacked me a month ago and I went to police station to lodge FIR against him but the police did not take any action against the attacker and he is still threatening me,” she added.

The protesting transgenders also lamented the role of UN saying the world body did nothing for their rights.

Among them was a bachelor degree holder Aisha, who according to her, worked in NADRA only to leave it after two months. “I left the job because the salary was not sufficient. Now I am fed up with dancing and wanted to get a job but this time it’s not so easy,” she informed.

Besides their other demands, the transgenders asked the provincial government to establish a separate colony for their residences as they do not feel comfortable while living in other residential areas. They also complained that the flats’ owners charged 200 percent rent as compared to other people.

A number of civil society organizations have supported the transgenders in setting up their protest camp.

Qamar Naseem, a member of the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network, said the purpose of this camp was to ask the government why it had been refusing basic rights to the transgenders which were enshrined in the Constitution and elaborated specifically by the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court.

“Not only the government, our society too has been treating these transgenders with discrimination,” Naseem said adding they had never been given share in inheritance.

According to Farzana, who heads an association of the transgenders on the provincial level, there are more than 40,000 transgenders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She alleged that foreign donor agencies provide millions of rupees funds annually for the welfare of the transgenders but the government and non-government organizations plundered a major chunk of these funds and utilize very little for them.

She further said that the provincial government had assured them to constitute shelter committee to resolve their longstanding problem of residence but it proved to be a ‘lip service’.

Transgenders can rightly be described as the most marginalized segment of our society. Apart from the government’s pathetic approach towards them, the society in general is responsible for their present day status. Even the religious scholars, who enjoy a good ‘say’ in our surroundings, never talked about the rights of these human beings.

It is high time to rethink and give them their due rights to enable them to lead a respectable and honorable life after all they are human beings.