“I was gang-raped by 12 men when I was ten-years-old but my family did not take any action against the culprits,” her tone changed while recalling those moments. Hina Gul is a transgender.
“They did wrong, they should have taken an action.”
“My life was not the same since then. My mother started protecting me after that incident. She always held my hand and never leave me alone.”
“I still remember how she used to pick up and drop off from school.”
Gul’s siblings shunned her away after their parents’ death. But she had no regrets about it. “My siblings do not accept me. I am different from them. They are happy in their world so am I.”
Transgenders are neglected and disowned by their parents just because they are different. This is one of the most sensitive social issues in Pakistan, because of which people ignore their existence in society. Their rights are often not even discussed in the sophisticated and literate part of the community.
Transgenders are also called ‘Khawaja Sara’, their identity itself has become a verbal abuse by the passage of time. Being different, they are treated as if they are not even human.
Even if their parents decide not to abandon them, their family members and friends do not accept them and treat them as if they are cursed.
Transgender people have been treated as outcasts within our society, and thus have been deprived of social and cultural participation.
Thus, with no home for shelter, no family for support and no friends to offer solace, the third gender is left alone. They are often forced into prostitution.
People say that transgenders can only sing and dance, I wonder who came up with this ignominy idea because Gul on the other hand, chooses not to dance or beg.
“I don’t need to beg or dance anymore.”
“I loved handicrafts since childhood. We used to have exams related to arts and drawing. I used to score highest in that competition.”
“My teachers at first never believed me. They asked me whether I made it or my parents did. I used to convince them that I made such items. So I was always passionate about it since I was 10 or 11 years old.”
Sharing the struggle Gul faced financially when she fell ill, she said, “I became unable to play drums and left the previous work I used to do with other transgenders as I fell ill.”
“It has been two years since I had an attack. I have gone through angioplasty, I was unable to perform so I decided to start making handicrafts again.”
“People have started appreciating me for what I am doing and they even buy my handmade items. They don’t judge me I am happy with what I am doing.”
“I have finally bid farewell to my previous work as I was earning well through handicrafts.”
As per 2017’s Population and Housing Census of Pakistan, there are 10,418 transgenders in the country. This puts the percentage of transgenders in relation to the total population of the country, which stands at 207,774,520, at 0.24 percent.
“I don’t blame other transgenders what they do, I respect what they do, its not their fault. They don’t have a proper way of income but they are quite talented.”
Transgenders may be treated, they might be limited to dance at weddings or beg at traffic signals only but they are hardworking Gul explains.
“We want a good source of income so we can move forward. Maybe the government can or any other firm can open up a boutique for me or can initiate any setup.”
“I and my transgender community are quite talented I tell you.”
Walking out of Hina’s home, for the first time in many years, I felt as if the transgender community in Pakistan might just have a chance to be equal.
Talking about chances to be equal, recent steps have been taken by the government to protect transgender rights and provide them opportunities to be part of the mainstream workforce.
The Supreme Court, in 2010, ordered the full recognition of the transgender community, including job quotas for transgender people in public sectors. In 2012 NADRA created a third gender in its database to accommodate all transgenders.
Transgenders were included in the national population census in 2017. Later in 2018, the parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act which established broad protections for transgender people. In the same year, Marvia Malik became the first Pakistani transgender news anchor.
In May 2019, Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari appointed a transgender woman in her department. Last December, Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the Sehat Insaf Card for the transgender community.