Thirteen members of the transgender community will be contesting elections on various seats across the country, the All Pakistan Transgender Election Network (Apten) announced at a press conference in Peshawar on Wednesday.
Apten, a rights group focusing on the invisibility of leaders from the transgender community, comprises TransAction KP, the Sindh Transgender Welfare Network, the Balochistan Alliance for Transgender and Intersex Community and the Punjab Transgender Foundation.
The group, led by TransAction KP President Farzana Jan presented a charter of demands calling for the removal of systemic barriers to entry of transgender people into politics, and for political parties to induct more members of the community into their ranks.
Apten urged political parties to look beyond catering to populations on the basis of existing gender binaries and demanded provision of security and an end to stereotyping of the community, among other demands from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), political parties, law enforcement agencies, media and civil society.
Apten said that two transgender leaders — Nayab Ali and Lubna Lal — will contest from NA-142 Okara and PP-26 Jhelum, respectively, on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Gulalai (PTI-G) tickets, while the remaining 11 candidates will run as independents.
However, they said, at least two transgender people ─ one in Peshawar and another in Haripur ─ were unable to submit nomination papers because they were beaten up and harassed after their intentions to contest elections became public knowledge.
Dejected by the failure of mainstream political parties to address the issues of transgenders, the network announced it would form its own political party after the elections. The group said that it was aiming for the party to be registered before local body elections.
"Given the power of presence, and the paucity of role models in all spheres of life, the potential influence of having transgender-identifying representatives who can stand in the public spotlight and demonstrate the legitimacy, value, and dignity of transgender lives and political claims is huge," Jan explained today at the press conference.
In 2009, Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to legally recognise a third sex, allowing transgenders to obtain identity cards. They number at least half a million people in the country, according to several studies, but their representation in politics and many other spheres of life remains minimal as they are restricted to very few job roles — with many forced to earn their living by begging and dancing.