Three transgenders in Pakistan have been given Government jobs. However,
social acceptance is a distant dream.
A premier spoken English training institute in Karachi refused to enroll Rifee Khan as she was a transgender and the families of other students would object to her presence. The institute instead advised Ms Khan who works for the Gender Interactive Alliance, that she take private lessons.
Ms Khan was in tears as she narrated the incident at a workshop on Monday, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). I am educated. I have a double M.A., yet this is how I was treated, she said.
Ms Khan alongwith Mazhar Anjum and Muskan are three transgenders who, in an unprecedented step, were offered jobs by the Sindh government a few days ago.
The government is also organising a vocational training workshop for the transgender community on February 20.
The Gender Interactive Alliance wants a member of the community to be nominated to provincial assemblies to protect their intersts.
Despite a landmark Supreme Court judgment that recognised the transgenders right to equality and inheritance, and their right to be registered as the third gender or khwaja seras in the National Database and Registration Authority, the community faces discrimination.
Muhammad Majid Bashir, a senior advocate, said the landmark 2011 verdict allowed a third gender category on national identity cards, gave transgenders a legal share in family inheritance, reserved two per cent quota in jobs in all sectors and gave them the right to vote in the elections.
But as Almas Boby of the Transgender Foundation pointed out, the biggest issue for the community is social acceptance. She could not study beyond matriculation due to social pressure.
However, separate schools for transgenders will isolate the community further, she said. Please accept us and let us be part of society.
Ms Khan said families should support children who have a different sexual orientation. Her family supported her which is why she could study. But many families disowned their children who had no option but to beg or dance for a livelihood, she lamented.
Jannat Ali, who has an MBA and heads the Khwaja Sera Society, runs a literary project which imparts teaching skills to young people so that they dont have to beg on the streets. She says it is difficult for transgenders to continue schooling, thanks to the social attitude what with the children being taunted making many of them reluctant to go to school.
The access of the community to health care is a challenge too, said Ms Khan. We are not even allowed to stand in queues, how can we get treatment?
For the 1.5 million transgender community, social acceptance is certainly a distant dream. However, a beginning has been made by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Sindh Government which may pave the way for recognition of the transgenders by the society. Social activists have also to do their bit in this regard.