Activists call for socio-economic uplift of transgender persons

By Our Correspondent
April 02, 2023

Speakers at an event on Friday mourned the transgender persons who fell victim to the inhumane violence perpetrated against the community. They stressed that the transgender community was entitled to all rights available to the Pakistani citizens, including equality and protection against discrimination.


The Subrang Society, a trans-people rights body, had organised the event at a hotel where representatives of civil society and government discussed the experiences and achievements of transgender persons.

Speakers at the event stressed the need for accepting the transgender people and their experiences to ensure that they too were treated as respectable citizens. They called for raising awareness about the hate, violence and obstacles faced by the transgender community that are not highlighted in the mainstream media.

Surendar Valasai, special assistant to the Sindh chief minister on human rights, who was the chief guest at the event, shed light on the government’s vision for a diverse, inclusive and equitable society.

He said the Pakistan Peoples Party in Sindh had extended the benefits of the Benazir Income Support Programme to the transgender community and reserved a quota for them.

Kami Sid, the Subrang Society’s executive director, said it was their mission to create awareness regarding the transgender community and the human rights of all people. “We envision a Pakistan where every individual has the right to live their lives authentically, free of discrimination, fear, or persecution,” she said.

Sara Gill, the first transgender doctor, talked about how the community evolved from dancing and begging to stake a claim in mainstream society. She personally transitioned from a survivor to saviour, and wanted everybody to contribute to the economy.

She said the informal revenues earned by the transgender people also benefitted the country. Pakistan belonged to religious and gender minorities as well, she asserted.

Nisha Rao, a transgender lawyer, recalled how she begged for 10 years on the streets of Karachi and was physically exploited.

Nuzhat Shirin, the Sindh Commission on Status of Women chairperson, said there was no mechanism to address the health and financial issues of the transgender community as well as the accommodation problems they faced. She said the trangender persons needed to be accepted everywhere like other regular citizens.

Frieha Altaf, Catwalk Agency CEO, reflected on how we were not taught how to treat every other human being with respect. “The Transgender Visibility Day is the day where we can create more opportunities for the community to honour the brave steps taken by trans-heroes,” she said.

Iqbal Detho, the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) chairperson, said the history and religion both afforded the transgender community visibility until the colonial law cast them as criminals in 1871 and in the subsequent laws.

He said he believed such laws needed to be revisited and every individual had the right to the state protection. “A scheme is being developed for police reforms and socio-economic measures to support the transgender persons and ensure their right to education, employment, security and health.”

Mahnaz Rehman, the Aurat Foundation’s resident director, said that as an activist, she acknowledged that the goals for women and transgender persons were aligned, and we needed to focus on education and capacity building.