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Monday October 03, 2022

Vulnerable to violence

By Editorial Board
March 17, 2022

Transphobia is alive and well in Pakistan, with continued violence against the transgender community not just in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but across the country. In the latest violent attack, five transgender persons were shot at in Mansehra, presumably in a fit of jealousy-induced rage. But the reasons for such attacks in the past have been many – hatred and essential discrimination against the community being the primary factors. While Pakistan is one of only 12 countries in the world to recognise the existence of the 'other' gender on its ID card, and there has been progress in ensuring legislation protecting transgender persons, the battle for recognition continues to be fought.

In Mansehra, organisations working with the welfare of minorities, transgender persons, and other endangered communities have asked for more vigilance in places where transpersons live, so as to protect them. Both the government and people must realise that it is not enough to only take action after the fact. We as a people need to realise how little protection is afforded to the most vulnerable among us. The problem is not just one of law enforcement and a lack of official action. It is our duty as citizens to create a society where all feel welcome and safe. The reason attacks on transgender persons are so common is because the perpetrators feel they have immunity for their actions. This should not be allowed to stand and we cannot just rely on the government to be the agent of change.

The South Asian region has for centuries given a status of respect and dignity to the trans community. This changed under colonial rule, and due to Western notions of gender binaries. While laws are meaningful and important, more needs to be done and protection ensured for transgender persons, no matter where they live and what they do. There also has to be wider acceptance for them in the workplace. We already saw how the 2017 census undercounted the community; this is just one way an entire community is relegated to a secondary status in society. The brutalities transgender persons go through on a daily basis and the increasing violent attacks on them, especially in recent years, should serve as a grisly reminder of how far we have still to go before all citizens of Pakistan enjoy equal rights and protection under the law.

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