Mainstreaming transgenders

Transgenders, who form a much mistreated community in Pakistan, were mainstreamed in politics for the first time when the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to enroll transgenders as voters back in November 2011. Since then, members of the transgender community have been enjoying their right to franchise. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that claims to be a social democratic party and believes in equal opportunities for everyone, has taken a lead in wooing a large number of transgender voters. Lately, confidence reposed by at least 25 leaders of the transgender community on the PPP leadership not only shows their importance in political arena but also gives an insight into changing scenario regarding their treatment in society. It is no secret that transgender people in Pakistan like other minority communities live in a state of perpetual shame and ridicule. Societal attitude towards them leaves them with very few options. They are in-practice barred from entering any mainstream profession, and hence for their survival they have little choice but to mould themselves in the stereotype expected of them in order to get a meagre means of living. Their entire social network gets circumscribed within the profession of begging, dancing, and prostitution, and this leaves them vulnerable to those looking to earn profit from their misery. To make matters worse, even state officials on ground are apathetic to their plight, as they largely have the same attitude towards them as the society as large.

Transgender individuals need to be mainstreamed in Pakistan, not just through the provision of equal opportunities, but also through breaking the de facto barriers that so often prevent them from doing so. They need to be given proper representation in parliament as they are also citizens of the country. The solution to fixing societal attitude towards them may not be as straightforward, but it must be kept in mind that the attitude is due to a fundamentally asymmetric power relationship. Transgender persons are ridiculed with impunity because they are weak. Once that changes, it can be expected that the attitude would change as well. This means that empowerment of the transgender community must be the fundamental objective of any policy devised for them. After all, Pakistan’s gradual ascent towards an inclusionary state necessitates addressing the marginalisation and the deprivation that the country’s transgender community faces.

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