Transgender march seeks right to live with dignity, equality and respect

Published November 21, 2022
(Clockwise) Members of the transgender community stage a demonstration at Frere Hall on the occasion of international Transgender Day of Remembrance; an enthralling dance performance at the stage; and people take part in the Sindh Moorat March. —Shakil Adil / White Star
(Clockwise) Members of the transgender community stage a demonstration at Frere Hall on the occasion of international Transgender Day of Remembrance; an enthralling dance performance at the stage; and people take part in the Sindh Moorat March. —Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: Frere Hall on Sunday was a place to be proud of who you are. If you felt like dancing to the music being played, you could do so and others would join you. If you wanted to show up with blue and silver hair or clown curls or wear a funny hat like that girl wearing a black boonie hat decorated with metal rings and safety pins there was no reason why you shouldn’t be doing that. One also ran into a guy with hairy legs in a frock and it was perfectly fine. No one was going to be judging anyone for their individuality, identity, choices and appearances at the inaugural Sindh Moorat March being held on the occasion of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Up on the stage, there was Hina Baloch, or Surkh Hina as she is popularly known in social media circles, wearing her favourite big traditional silver chand bali (half moon earrings), a bright red shirt and printed beige shalwar as she waved the transgender flag with horizontal pink, blue and white stripes to be cheered by all.

She was joined by the graceful Shehzadi Rai in a black dress and hair tied with a paranda (braid tassel).

Speaking to Dawn ahead of the event, Shehzadi, who was also one of the organisers of the event, had explained that the names or titles that one hears or refers to transgenders by, such as ‘khwaja sira’, ‘hijra’, ‘khadra’, ‘khusra’, ‘eunuch’, etc, have been given to the community by others.

Sindh Moorat March held on International Transgender Day of Remembrance

“We call ourselves ‘moorat’ and we want to let you all know this also by naming this gathering the Moorat March,” said Shehzadi.

“We added Sindh to ‘Moorat March’ because this province has a history of Bari Marai, which is like a parliament house for transgenders with a gaddi nasheen or leader, which goes back to over 1,000 years. We are an indigenous community of Sindh,” she pointed out.

Transgender activist and founder and president of the Gender Interactive Alliance Bindiya Rana said that coming out to celebrate their existence on International Transgender Day of Remembrance had made the day as great as Eid for them. “It is a very important day for us and we are glad that the Sindh Moorat March started from this province today,” she said.

“But that time isn’t far that this day will be celebrated all over Pakistan. Our focus today is to get our demands known in all the provinces of Pakistan. This march will prove to you our numbers and our political strength,” she added.

Social activist and classical dancer Sheema Kermani said that transgender people were also human beings and deserved to be treated with respect. “Human beings should have equal rights in every society,” she said. “Next year, in January, Tehrik-e-Niswan celebrates its 45 years with a festival and there we will also highlight transgender issues through a play that I plan to put up with Scottish transgender writer, playwright, poet, actor and director Jo Clifford,” she added.

Also present at the march was Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Regional Coordinator Kaleem Durrani, who said that he was happy to see the transgender community standing up to fight for their rights. “We are also fighting for this for them,” he said. “And they have reached this stage to demand their rights with a lot of struggle. They have even sacrificed their lives,” he said.

The Chairperson of Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW), Nuzhat Shirin, also said that the commission had seen the struggles of the transgender community and pushed for the Transgender Protection Act. “People here didn’t see them as human beings and were out to hurt them. They still are,” she said.

“Most of the time, the members of this poor community don’t even have their own families to fall back on. SCSW also wants parents who disown their transgender children punished,” Ms Shirin said while adding that they were working closely with the community to help them get their rights because right now there were not even public bathrooms for transgenders and if they were sick, no doctor wanted to treat them. They have no jobs because they have no education and are forced to beg.

The fact that transgender people only want to be treated like any other human being was reiterated in the placards and posters that one could see all around.

So many transgender persons also arrived from other cities of Sindh by bus. Bobby Ali from Hyderabad was happy to just be at the Frere Hall and witness it all. Sana Khan, a transgender activist and Bobby’s guru (leader) also from Hyderabad was hoping to see some good come out of the march. “I want more vacancies in government departments and institutions for us,” she said. Saima from Karachi, along with friend Julie, was looking forward to more such gatherings and the same acceptance and positivity for her community, which she witnessed here.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2022

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