A transgender person, who was one of the organisers of the 'People's Climate March' that took place under the banner of the Karachi Bachao Tehreek (KBT) in the city on Sunday, was allegedly tortured and sexually assaulted by some persons looking to "extract" information about the march on Saturday night, the KBT said.
The alleged incident was disclosed by the KBT — a campaign seeking an end to the demolition of Karachi's working-class settlements and markets — via a tweet, detailing that one of the members of the December 12 People's Climate March organising committee in Karachi was allegedly picked up and subjected to torture and rape on the night of Dec 11.
"We organised a People’s Climate March in Karachi. The night before our protest, we held an organising meeting. One of our organisers, a trans woman, was abducted on her way home. She was tortured and raped," the KBT said in a tweet.
It suggested that police were involved in the violence against the transgender person and did so to "extort" information from the member about the march.
"It is worth noting that this police violence was disproportionately directed towards a trans woman - that sexual violence was weaponised against one of the most vulnerable members of the organising team, so that information about the march and its programme could be extorted from her," it added.
Shahzadi Rai, the Gender Interactive Alliance's (GIA) 'violence case manager', told Dawn.com that the KBT activist "was picked up on her way home and kept in illegal custody for three hours where she was tortured and raped before being released".
She said the suspects asked the activist in captivity about the details of the march programme and speakers. "The transgender was terrified and appeared reluctant to lodge a case," said Shahzadi, who deals with cases of torture against the transgender community.
Meanwhile, Bindiya Rana, another GIA representative, told Dawn.com that they would likely hold a meeting with the human rights commission formed by the Sindh government to discuss the matter.
A KBT official, wishing not to be named, said activists of the movement had been subjected to "undesirable attitude and false cases" for highlighting the issues faced by the people.
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah took notice of the incident and ordered the inspector general of police to conduct an inquiry into the case and submit a report to him, according to a tweet from his office.
The chief minister's spokesperson, Rasheed Channa, told Dawn.com that the alleged rape victim had not contacted police for formally lodging a case.
"The police are in touch with the transgender community representatives and other relevant persons to persuade them to lodge an FIR of the case so that formal legal proceedings could be initiated," he added.
The Ministry of Human Rights also took notice of the incident, saying its transgender rights expert was in contact with the victim's guardian.
"Our Transgender Rights Expert, Reem, has been in touch with the relevant people including the victim’s guardian and our ministry will be contacting Sindh government to ensure her protection."
Dozens of participants of the People’s Climate March had taken out a rally near Karachi's Boat Basin on Sunday evening to draw the authorities' attention towards the adverse impacts of climate change, particularly the perceived environmental disaster unfolding in Malir and adjoining areas allegedly because of trees being felled and agricultural land being destroyed to pave the way for mega housing projects.
Activists belonging to around 10 political parties and civil society organisations had arrived near Clifton beach and tried to march towards Bilawal House but police officials prevented them from moving further, according to organisers and witnesses.
The move by the police led the march participants, who were affiliated with the Awami Workers Party, Indigenous Rights Movement, Karachi Bachao Tehreek, Malir Expressway Action Committee, Mazdoor Kisan Party and others, to stage a sit-in on the service road at some distance from the Bilawal House.
The marchers including men, women and children chanted slogans against Bahria Town Karachi, DHA Karachi, the occupation of locals' lands, construction of the Malir Expressway, destruction of agricultural land in Malir and Gadap, demolition of homes located on Gujjar and Orangi Nullahs, and other issues.