On March 14, 2022, five transgender persons were shot inside their house in Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to the police, four of the injured “Sumiro, Tulsi, Muna and Kairf were seriously injured and taken to the Ayub Medical Hospital in Abbottabad.”
The attacker initially escaped the crime scene, however, was later caught by the police later. Talking about the perpetrator, the police said the accused was living inside the transgender persons’ residence but became violent and opened fire after a friend of one of the trans persons came to meet them.
The incident jolted social media, with activists condemning it and asking the government to take strict action against such incidents.
“Local authorities need to investigate the case properly and ensure delivery of justice and soon as possible,” women’s and digital rights activist Nighad Dad noted.
This was not the first incident of violence against the transgender community. They have relentlessly been attacked, abused, and even murdered in the country, especially in KP.
Although exact figures are not available, however, Trans-Action Alliance says, “since 2015, 91 transgender women were killed in the province and we have 2,000 registered cases of violence on the transgender community just in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
The executive director of Transgender Rights Consultation in Pakistan, Nayyab Ali says: “Transphobia and hate crime are clear reason behind the surge of violence against the community.” Nayyab Ali added bullying, threats, and harassment are part of daily lives of transgender people in Pakistan.
And observers say the most horrific thing for the transgender community is discrimination, and abandonment from their own families.
According to a 2016 survey: “51% of trans people’s overall income comes from dancing (including toli, ceremonial dances at weddings and births), 15% from sex work and 12% from begging.” Furthermore, their exclusion from the education means that 42% of the whole transgender community is illiterate.
In 2018, Pakistan passed a landmark law guaranteeing basic rights for the trans community and outlawing the discrimination against them by both employers and private business owners. As per the law, transgender persons have the right to register their identity – male, female or a blend of both genders or neither – on all official documents including CNIC and passport.
The law also guarantees citizens the right to express their gender as they wish, and to define gender identity, which is defined as “a person’s innermost and individual sense of self as male, female or a blend of both, or neither; that can correspond or not to the sex assigned at birth”.
Despite being a huge success for the community, observers note it largely remains on paper, reiterating that the ground reality is in stark contrast.
Observers reiterate the community still faces daily discrimination with transgender persons targeted with abuse and mockery nationwide. They urge that strong measures are needed on the part of the state to protect transgender persons, with societal reformation also critical to improve the lives of the community.