Moving from the margins

Published November 30, 2020

THE recently reported story of Nisha Rao, Pakistan’s first transgender lawyer, is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Like so many from the trans community, Nisha ran away from home and was forced to beg on the streets to make ends meet. For some time, she stood at traffic lights and begged in order to survive, but was determined to forge a new path for herself. As she earned enough to pay for law classes, she enrolled at school, earned a degree and licence, and this year joined the Karachi Bar Association. She now works with an NGO to fight for transgender rights, and is expanding her client base to include persons outside her community.

Nisha’s happy ending is no doubt uplifting. Yet for all her success and ambition, the early years of her independence were fraught with hardship. Social stigmas and systemic discrimination have pushed the trans community in Pakistan into begging and the sex trade for decades — options that trans people like Nisha are compelled to consider if they come out to their families and get shunned as a result. The abuse, harassment and judgement that trans people are subjected to are harrowing; not only are these people the victims of terrible violence, they are even denied space in morgues. In these circumstances, the fact that Pakistan became one of a few countries in the world to pass legislation protecting the rights of transgender people in 2018 is a ray of hope — and a testament to how hard the community has fought to be heard and recognised. In enshrining an individual’s right to determine their gender, the state made a historic decision to safeguard the rights of the community. But the road ahead is a long one. Trans people still face serious discrimination and violence, and are far from being represented in all walks of life. The government must continue to support the trans community and work on a public-awareness campaign that sensitises people about gender identity. Like Nisha, trans people should be represented across professions and given respect in keeping with their constitutional rights.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

Silencing the public
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Silencing the public

Acting as if it is unaccountable, it is now curtailing citizens’ digital rights without even bothering to come up with a justification.
Fitch’s concern
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Fitch’s concern

It warns that “near-term political uncertainty may complicate the country’s efforts to secure a financing agreement with the IMF to succeed the Stand-by Arrangement”.
Zoo zealotry
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Zoo zealotry

IN a bizarre twist of faith and fur, the Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has...
Open the books
Updated 20 Feb, 2024

Open the books

Irregularities have been so widespread that even otherwise impartial observers are joining the chorus of voices demanding a recount.
BRICS candidacy
Updated 20 Feb, 2024

BRICS candidacy

For Pakistan to successfully join BRICS or compete in other arenas internationally, the political instability at home needs to be addressed.
Pneumonia menace
20 Feb, 2024

Pneumonia menace

PANIC is on the rise as the alarming surge in pneumonia cases has created an explosion of headlines — sans...