Four members of the transgender community were shot and injured in Peshawar
ive people, including four transgender persons, were shot and injured in Peshawar last week. They were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital for treatment.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 80 transgender people have been killed since 2015; many more have been injured.
Taimur Kamal, an activist working for the rights of transgender people, says that such cases rarely end in a conviction. “Many incidents are not even reported in the media. Transgender people are an oppressed group. They are often afraid to report such violence. Those who speak out are always at risk. Several attempts have been made on my life for supporting this community’s rights,” he says.
A majority of transgender people living in the vicinity of Faqirabad are forced to live in very poor conditions. Police officers say it is very difficult for them to provide security to so many people. “Many transgender people have links with criminal elements. These same criminals become their enemies over monetary disputes. The statements of victims at the time of the crime, and the facts during investigation often run counter to each other,” the police officers say.
The term ‘marakh’ is used for men who maintain relations with members of the transgender community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Under this arrangement, a transgender person gets into an undeclared relationship with a man as a life partner. Money often becomes a binding connection between the two. According to police, these ‘marakhs’ are often criminals.
Most marakhs are petty criminals. The relationship is strained when either the transgender persons do not pay the marakh or the marakh stops paying them. Often the transgender person then abandons the marakh after finding another partner. This is where regular hostilities and violence break out. Lacking employment, transgender persons are either forced to become sex workers or dance at weddings. It is difficult for them to shun sexual advances. The former marakhs become vindictive upon seeing their partners with others. This leads to violence.
A couple of years back, one such marakh was caught with dismembered body parts of a trans- woman in the Bara Gate area of the provincial capital. The killer later told police that he had spent a lot of money on her and could not bear seeing her with anyone else.
Sometimes, transgender persons are assaulted at weddings and dance performances. They face forcible haircuts and beatings. Their clothes are torn; sometimes they are raped. Many such incidents go unreported. The main reason for this is that transgender persons avoid visiting the police stations and seeking remedy through the judicial process. A majority of transgender people do not want to pursue these cases later on.
Why do transgender people become victims of violence? Like children, transgender people are soft targets. The aggressors are confident that they will not resist or retaliate. Transgender people are often rejected by their relatives and families, so there is no one to help them and no one left behind to follow their cases.
Sometimes there is no one to claim their bodies and their heirs refuse to bury them. An important factor is that no eyewitness is ready to report the violence against transgender persons. In most cases, the matter is dismissed as an ‘internal matter’.
A major threat haunting Peshawar’s transgender community is the AIDS. So far, 27 transgender people have been diagnosed with the virus. However, no awareness campaign has been undertaken in this regard. Most of the transgender people do not get tested. There are no reliable statistics therefore.
“We have tried repeatedly to make arrangements for testing. So far it has not been possible,” the local police say.
Transgender community representative Farzana Jan says that the real problem is discrimination against transgender people. “Determining the status of transgender people is a difficult thing. Despite legislation, transgender people are not being given their rights. In hospitals, transgender people are unwelcome around men as well as women. In August 2016, after assailants shot a transgender woman three times in the abdomen when she resisted abduction and rape, the district hospital refused her admission, saying they only had male and female wards. She died awaiting treatment,” Jan says.
The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist, researcher and trainer on terrorism, conflict and peace development. He can be reached at email@example.com