Trans Rights Progress In Pakistan
Two groundbreaking bills have been introduced in Pakistan’s National Assembly that aim to expand transgender rights in Pakistan. The bills widen the definition of trans people to include “any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the society norms and cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at the time of their birth” and would also make it illegal to deprive trans people from inheriting property, evict them from any premises or deny them entry to educational institutions.
The introduction of these bills comes on the heels of the Pakistani government’s decision to issue its first passport with a transgender category to trans activist Farzana Jan who is president of Trans Action Pakistan, a community organization based in the largely conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Tribal Areas. “Men and women both have been given their identity, but we were deprived of this right. We are happy there is a growing realisation that we should be given our identity,” Jan said in a phone call with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We also want to see how the outside world is. But we have been facing many problems with regard to complications in our travel documents. But, thank God, this issue has now been resolved.”
While the work of activists within the community and increasing awareness in the media have moved the needle towards progress, trans people in Pakistan still face harassment, discrimination and marginalization. As the movement grows, it also faces challenges from within the community as diverse voices call out the socioeconomic and cultural tensions between”Western style” trans activists and members of the hijra / khwaja sira community. As Qasim Iqbal, a researcher on gender and sexuality for the Naz Project expressed “When the newer generation say they are transgender they are referring to the transgender that the West acknowledges. A lot of the modern transgender women are wearing Daisy Duke shorts and tube tops. They are breaking away from the tradition. They are becoming more hip and modern.”