SHIKARPUR: Transperson. When one hears of this word, the image of someone singing, dancing or being used as a sex worker comes to the mind.
Who is a transperson in Pakistan?
Someone who is tortured verbally, physically and sexually in open places by people; someone who does not get a respectful way of earning due to their sexual identity, and lack of education.
Is that all about the transpeople living in Pakistan?
“No,” says Sanam Bukhari, president of the Sanam Fakir Welfare Tanzeem, Sindh, and focal person for transpeople [khowajasara] of Sindh.
“There are three types of transpeople: by birth, by suffering erectile dysfunction and by behaving abnormally; whatever the type they belong to, one thing is for sure they are not treated as human beings,” Sanam goes on.
Transpersons are deprived of their fundamental rights in Pakistan such as getting enrolled in public or private schools.
The community faces problems in getting medical treatment; they are sexually harassed; they suffer mental illness and physical torture, and they are not able to earn easily at public places owing to their gender identity.
Sanam says the acceptance of a transperson in families is zero. “Once a newborn baby is identified as a trans, families do not own them and soon hand over them to bisexual groups only to become a street dancer, singer or a prostitute.
State and society have yet to give attention to their rights.
Sanam says she got five killers of transpersons arrested, who were killed in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Dadu, and Dera Murad Jamali. The arrests were made by her ceaseless struggle. Transpersons played a pivotal role during the super flood in Sindh in 2010.
Transpeople are trying to mainstream themselves on their own.
Sanam formed a transgender cricket team and organised few friendly cricket matches with teams in Sukkur and other cities to provide a healthy environment to transgender persons. The government did not support them despite a couple of meetings with Sports Minister Muhammad Bakhsh Mahar.
There are several myths associated with trans communities; one such is about their funerals.
Sanam, however, says there is nothing mysterious about the last rites of trans. Their funeral prayers are conducted by heirs in a normal way; transpersons only avoids reading funeral prayers and going to the graveyard with the coffin to lower the body into the grave. Transpersons consider themselves female hence they avoid going to the graveyard with coffin because females are not allowed to go along with Janaza in Islam.
The community communicates with each other in a special language, which they call Farsi (Persian).
Sanam urged higher authorities to devise a plan for transpersons welfare. She wants to build old age houses for the transpersons over 50 who become a victim of isolation and mental illness.
Sanam knows that such activism is impossible without having political mileage, and for that reasons, after getting Computerized National Identity Card in 2012, Bukhari contested for PS-01 in 2013 elections and got 980 votes. The result could not break or beat them. Later, Sanam joined Pakistan People’s Party but the Sukkur leadership of the PPP disappointed them. Now, Sanam wants to see trans people getting inducted in the police as per the announcement of Inspector General of Police Syed Kaleem Imam, who earmark quota for transgender persons in Sukkur.
“The announcement is fanciful but 99 percent of transpersons is illiterate. So, there should be special rules for us,” Sanam says.
For the first time in Pakistan, transgender persons have been counted during the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017 and according to results there are 10,418 transpeople are in Pakistan; of them, 6,709 are in Punjab, 2,527 in Sindh, 913 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 133 in Islamabad, 109 in Baluchistan and 27 in Federal Administered Tribal Area [FATA]. Moreover, 2,767 live in rural areas and 7,651 urban areas.
A law “Protection of Rights” Act 2018 approved by Senate is also in the pipeline to protect the rights of transgender community.
Besides, a process of issuing driving licenses has been issued to transgender persons to drive their vehicle to earn in a respectful manner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The government has taken several steps for the welfare of the transpersons like issuing CNICs and licenses, counting them in the census, allocating jobs in every department and passing Protection of Rights for Transgender to provide them respect.
These measures are good; only their effective implementation is required to make every transperson feel that they are a human being too.