THE death of Alisha, a transgender activist, is a tragic tale of how our society treats those who do not have a definite gender identity. Requiring urgent medical attention after she was shot multiple times, Alisha, who was the fifth member of the transgender community to be attacked this year in KP, was rushed to hospital where, according to reports, doctors delayed treatment as there was confusion about whether to lodge her in a ward for male or female patients. Derisive remarks alluding to the sexual orientation of the transgender community were made as alleged by those who accompanied Alisha to the hospital. This depressing attitude speaks volumes for the kind of prejudices ingrained in a society that cannot see even a dying human being in a compassionate light.

While there is a need to investigate the murder and bring the guilty to book, there are other aspects to the situation that demand serious introspection. Such an exercise should not be restricted to those who mock the transgender community, but also include people who call for equal rights and dignity for its members. Did we protest loud enough as Alisha lay dying? In cases like this, there is always regret that we could have been a little more persistent in advocating protection and respect for the vulnerable and the easily discriminated against segments of society. Greater assertiveness is needed. The media has been, for its part, highlighting the transgenders’ case regularly, even if it has not been able to go beyond the already well-known features of their lives. It is time that others, most importantly the political parties so far missing from the scene, showed up and demonstrated some courage in the fight towards restoring dignity to this group of Pakistanis. The politicians must join in to boost the efforts of those who have raised their voices against the treatment meted out to a community that has always been kept at a distance from society’s conscience.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2016

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