Violence grows against Third Gender in Pakistan

Khyber Pakhtunwala (PAKISTAN): In June, three men broke into the home of a transgender woman named Kashi, in Mansehra and attempted to rape her. They ended up shooting her several times. Kashi is only one of many transgender women in Pakistan to have been attacked in recent months. In May, Alehsa, a transgender woman and an activist with the group “Trans Action”, died in the hospital after being shot six times by attackers. Before hear death, Alesha was being propositioned to film pornographic videos, which she refused to do.

In 2012, the Pakistani Supreme Court allowed for a “third gender” category to be added to national identity cards, which effectively gave the trans community increased legal standing and the right to vote. At least five transgender women ran for office. But attacks against the third gender continue and the violence has been increasing.

This year alone, nearly 45 transgender women have been attacked in just the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The term generally used by the trans community in Pakistan to describe itself is khwaaja sira, and gender identity includes being transsexual, khusra (transgender person), zenanans (cross dressers), and narnbans (eunuch).

The Khwaja Siras live in their own communities led by a Guru (teacher), adopting those biological males who are rejected by their families or flee. The community is generally self-sustaining, though many members work as professional dancers or sex workers. Given limited work opportunities, they are at high-risk for being targeted with violence when performing at weddings and parties. They’re often targeted when performing sex work, as well.

The organization Trans Action Khyber Pakhthunkhwa routinely shares details about attacks on the transgender community

Sex work is illegal in Pakistan and members of the transgender community are often at great risk. Even trans individuals who are not sex workers, however, have reported being harassed and intimidated into performing sex acts. Trans women in Peshawar have recently started posting on Facebook about violent treatment by local police officers against the trans community.

In another incident transwomen from the town of Nowshera reported being detained for ten hours by police officers:

“Seven Transgender women were kept in illegal confinement yesterday for 10 hours by Nowshera Cantt Police Station. There shirts were taken off and they were sexually harassed. Police kept on touching their different body parts forcefully.juliesm

Transwomen from the town of Faislabad, Punjab, are leading a campaign after three transwomen were gang raped by two men last week. In a series of  videos, a trans woman named Julie describes the assault and the attempts to shame and silence her and the other victims with subsequent threats of further violence.

In an environment where trans people feel that even the police are not taking serious action against criminals, they have taken to social media to draw attention to the rising discrimination and assaults against their community. Videos shared on Facebook show Julie and her supporters protesting at a local hospital after an on-duty doctor who was supposed to examine her injuries told her simply to “let it go”.

Despite several protests, a police report, and multiple press conferences, many in the trans community feels they are being mocked and silenced, while the violence against them continues with impunity.

Trans people across Pakistan  are uniting in their efforts to highlight systemic violence and marginalization. Despite threats, they’re continuing efforts to mobilize, demanding that the local authorities take actions to protect them. In a Facebook post, Trans Action Khyber Pakhthunkhwa reminded followers that it will continue to fight for trans rights:

“We know our rights and we are standing up to claim them. it’s just the beginning. We are a movement, we are pink warriors. There is no going back. We are equal citizens of Pakistan. We refuse to sit back. Despite of all the challenges and obstacles we have managed to stage a protest outside the Bolton Block where Alisha died.



One Response to Violence grows against Third Gender in Pakistan

  1. The plight of the ‘othered’ gender! Its frustrating to think of how people find all sorts of excuses to condone violence, and to what great extent does narrow minded prejudice fuelled by misplaced religion and patriarchy add to this violence.

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