Violence against transgenders reaches new high in Pakistan

    Amid continual killing of transgender persons, human rights activists are urging authorities to protect the stigmatised community.

    A young transgender, Sameer passed away Monday, from wounds he suffered in a shooting incident last week in Manshera.

    Police arrested Sabtin Fida of Bedadi on March 14 for allegedly shooting five transgender people at their home, charging him with attempted murder.

    Mona, a trans woman shot in the incident, told police, “I reached my room near Pima Hospital along with my other colleagues. Sabtin, who was already in the room, opened fire with an intent to kill us.”

    Separately on March 18, a man shot dead a transgender person in Jangi Mohallah area in the limits of Khan Raziq police station, Peshawar. It was the third such incident of targeting transgender persons in the province in less than a week.

    According to police, the slain transgender person identified as Mano was involved with a local identified as Sanaullah.

    Sanaullah got married sometime back and Mano was not happy over his friend’s marriage and would quarrel with him, police said and added Sanaullah allegedly shot dead Mano after an argument and fled the scene.

    Police have registered an FIR against the suspect.

    On March 17, a well-known transgender, Chanda, was shot dead in Mardan.

    Police have indicated that the murder was due to a ‘local dispute’, adding that an investigation was underway to arrest the culprits. Her friend was also shot and injured in the incident.

    As many as 70 transgender persons have been killed in KP since 2015, according to activists. Killers have walked free in 90 murder cases of transgender persons.

    “There is a genocide going on against transgender people in KP while everyone is focusing on political tamasha in this country. As many as more than 70 transgender people have been killed in KP in the last few years, the killing spree just in last few days is unimaginable,” said Nighat Dad, a lawyer and founder of Digital Rights Foundation.

    In a March 18 letter to KP Police chief, National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Chairperson Rabiya Javeri called for serious attention to the rise in hate crimes against the transgender community.

    Aurat March organisers also urged the government to take urgent action to end this violence. “Every feminist, journalist, politician and citizen must speak up and demand justice for Chand and Zamaroot,” they said.

    Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also condemned the attack on five trans persons in Mansehra.

    “The KP government’s recently announced trans rights policy needs to start by securing the community’s right to life and security,” the commission tweeted.

    Transgender persons continue to suffer human rights abuses and growing incidents of violence. Often shunned by mainstream society, transgender citizens find themselves vulnerable to being forced into begging or sex work.

    Muslim transgender persons complain of being insulted and stopped from entering mosques. They are questioned about Islamic practices and proclamations, they say. The number of transgender people recorded in Pakistan’s census in 2017 was 10,418.

    In 2018, parliament enacted the progressive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, which legally ensures equal protection to transgender citizens and safeguards their rights. The law allows people to choose their gender identity on official documents and prohibits discrimination in schools, at work, on public transportation or at hospitals.

    In October 2021, another transgender person in Mansehra was critically injured after an armed man attacked and attempted to rape them. They were slashed through their neck with a dagger. In 2018, also in Mansehra, a transgender person was attacked and tortured at their home.

    In 2016 in Peshawar, a trans woman died after hospital staff delayed her treatment because they couldn’t decide whether to place a transgender patient in the male or female ward.

    Breaking stereotypes, activist Dr Sarah Gill made history this January by becoming Pakistan’s first transgender doctor.

    Dr Gill has been described as a “beacon of hope” for the country’s neglected transgender community to pursue their dreams.

    Shortly after her graduation, Dr Gill said, “I wanted to make Pakistan famous and my parents have also accepted me after I became a doctor. I want to tell the transgender community to not lose hope. If I can become a doctor then anyone of you can work hard and be successful.”

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