ISLAMABAD: An MNA from the ruling party, on Thursday, raised her voice for an oft-forgotten segment of society. “I want to speak for a segment of society that is neither heard from nor allowed to speak; the transgender community,” said Shaza Fatima Khawaja, a PML-N lawmaker from Sialkot.

“Even if we give them voting rights, we can’t decide whether to classify them as men or women on their ID cards,” she lamented on the floor of the National Assembly.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Khawaja said that none of the transgender individuals she had spoken to had financial problems; all they want is the right to seek respectable, decent employment outside the sex industry.

Speaking in the house, she talked about how transgender individuals had to face abuse since childhood and were kicked out of their homes at a young age.

“Most of them don’t live anywhere because they don’t have houses. They move from place to place, and every third or fourth day, someone would come knock down their door and rape them, torture them or worse,” she said. She also described one of the biggest hurdles transgender individuals faced: obtaining identity documents. Nadra only recognises transgender individuals who have had gender-reassignment surgery, and asks for a medical certificate as proof. “But the surgery itself is illegal in Pakistan,” she said, pointing to the cyclical nature of the problem.

“Once they are registered, the ECP cannot decide whether to put them in the women’s or the men’s polling booths. They don’t have any of the basic human rights that you or I enjoy,” she said.

Talking about the need for budgetary allocations to specific projects aimed at mainstreaming transgender individuals, she also divulged her plans to take the matter to the Human Rights committee of the house.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2016