PESHAWAR: More than 18,000 transvestites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa live in fear and insecurity as they claim that not only anti-social elements but police also harass them.
Talking at a multi-stakeholders consultation organised here on Monday by a rights group called Trans Action KP/Fata and Blue Veins Organisation, they said that they lived a life of misery and insecurity but in silence as neither their families nor the government owned them.
“We are Pakistanis but we don’t have Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs),” said middle-aged Farzana, the president of Shemale Association of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and coordinator of Trans Action, an alliance formed recently to support transvestites in their strife for their rights.
Farzana said that most of the transvestites were facing problems in getting identity card as there was no one to verify their documents. She thought PTI would bring a change in their lives but it actually proved a tsunami for them, she said while hinting at how she was beaten by police during a protest.
Govt, policymakers asked to provide rights to transexuals
Sanam, a young and smiling transvestite wearing pink dress, who dances at weddings and other celebrations, said that she belonged to Kohat. “I left my home because I was taunted by family for my gait and the way I looked,” she said, adding that life in city was full of problems.
“Police and anti-social elements both harass us alike. We have nowhere to go for help,” said Sanam.
Farzana and other transvestites said that they had problems even in going to hospital as people gathered around them and harassed them. They face the same situation when they go to rent a place to live. The local people instead of providing them security expelled them from the residential areas when they were harassed in their homes by anti-social elements, they said.
A transvestite from Peshawar said that extortionists were harassing them but police were not helping them.
Kainaat, an educated transvestite, shared her experience as to how she could not lodge a complaint at a police station about loss of her employment card for the last one year.
She said that officials of Faqirabad police station did not take her complaint serious and made fun of her.
Keeping in view their bitter experience, majority of the transvestites said that they were afraid of contacting police for help.
Sikandar Zaman, regional coordinator of South Asia Partnership, said that his organisation could help in setting up a ‘helpline’ to take complaints of transvestites and convey the same to a police officer. The group also decided to send a formal request to IGP to assign a liaison officer of higher rank to resolve security issues of the transvestites.
Suleman Khan, a youth from Poha (Awareness) Organisation, offered to provide basic language course to those transvestites, who wanted to learn English as some of them expressed their desire to learn because they had been deprived of education due to negative remarks of the people.
The participants of the consultation called upon politicians, policymakers and government agencies to provide rights to transvestites. They expressed concern over exclusion of transvestite from the development and humanitarian agenda. They demanded of the UN agencies to explain as to where did they place transvestites in their gender marking in the humanitarian response.
Qamar Naseem, programme coordinator of Blue Veins, said that transvestites whose gender identity, appearance, behaviour or expression differed from their genetic sex at birth faced discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and other areas of life.
“They are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes and the worst is that the transgender community does not receive any help, support and protection from the government,” he added.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2015