Culture & Lifestyle / The Heartwrenching Fate Of Pakistan’s Transgender Community

The Heartwrenching Fate Of Pakistan’s Transgender Community

Culture & Lifestyle May 26, 2016

A Pakistani transgender woman died after being denied treatment. She succumbed to her wounds at Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital yesterday.

Alesha, 23, was a representative of the Trans Action Alliance (TAA). She was shot eight times by a gang on Sunday night.

The cause of the dispute is unknown, although such attacks and killings are not unusual in Pakistan. Since January 2016, 45 transgender people have been targeted in the Khyper-Pakhtunkhwa region alone.

Alesha with Friend Paro
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The group's Facebook page notes that the victim was neglected in the hospital as doctors spent an hour debating whether to admit the patient to a men's ward or a woman's ward. As media channels picked up the story, Alesha was transferred to a VIP ward — six hours after she was brought to the hospital. 
Qamar Naseem, coordinator of the transgender rights group Blue Veins, explicitly stated that the doctors "failed to provide her with urgent care or necessary facilities as she was transgender."

One of the group's post paints the community's sentiments in undisguised words: "kill all of us."

TAA volunteers in the hospital were not spared from taunts either. They were asked if their breasts were real, how much they charged for dancing parties and other inappropriate questions.

Fellow activist Farzana noted, "Transgender people are easily targeted because they are physically weak and have no social support."

Alesha in Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital
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TAA estimates that half a million transgender people live in Pakistan.

Transgender women, known as hijra, are on the one hand considered good luck and invited to perform at weddings but on the other hand are subjected to discrimination and violence. Most are poor and resort to begging or sex work. 

Until 2009, transgender people could not even obtain national identity cards. 

Despite protests against transphobia, the rights of the transgender community remain largely ignored. Activists are often beaten and mistreated, including attacks from police and government officials.

TAA members campaign for transgender rights.

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In February 2016, officials of the Elite police force attacked TAA's office and attempted to kidnap an activist. Religious groups and conservative parties have also persecuted the transgender community.


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Sanam Malik

Sanam Malik


Sanam writes on current affairs and pop culture. An English graduate from the University of Toronto, she identifies as a global citizen, feminist and nature lover. She will be ready to shake a leg to a peppy Bollywood beat any day.