“Simple majoritarianism can easily lead to populism, which in turn might lead to fascism and the oppression of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, women, the poor, and the socially marginalised”—Abdullah Ocalan
‘Birds of a feather flock together’ is an old adage and when the going gets tough, members of the public that enjoy some form of commonality tend to come closer. Thus neighbourhoods crop up on different bases that could be related to ethnicity, faith, caste, racial biases, language, nationality etc. Some constitute majority while remaining usually end up at marginalised levels. Similarly, colonialists imposed themselves on the locals like the Australian aborigines and the American native Indians forcing them to retreat into the periphery of their own homelands thus converting them to second grade citizens.
Then there are the physically and mentally disabled people, who require special treatment, special education, special representation and special job appointments to integrate them in the social set-up. Voices are raised in their favour with ardent supporters actively working towards their uplift. They draw many sympathisers in the society as people look upon them pitifully yet at the same time take great pride in their achievements.
Among these various groups, especially in Pakistan, the transgender community is perhaps one that requires the most attention. Rejected by their own blood relatives, these human beings who may be blessed with sharp mental faculties become social outcasts, finding solace in their own kind in ghettos and dirty surroundings. Deprived of educational facilities, they end up getting ridiculed, abused and ill-treated by the majority, so-called normal men and women. The way the public views them contemptuously as if their physical situation is their fault, is totally beyond comprehension. Their human characteristics are overlooked as they suffer humiliation at the hands of the ‘chosen’ others.
These acts of discrimination are major factors in increased poverty and inequality with the government playing a key role in failing to establish proper environment for this marginalised community by educating the public with appropriate information and to perceive it in a more humane manner. It was only until recently that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 was enacted to legally recognise and provide equality to such persons. Better late than never! Legislation is one thing, enforcement is another. Despite this law, members of this community continue to face hardships and discriminatory conduct by the normal but ignorant majority.
Consequently, one must give full credit to those, who even under these disturbing conditions manage to cut a formidable niche for themselves. They are the ones who should enjoy state patronage so that they can be a source of inspiration for others. If some have courageously ventured to attain formal education and professional skills, their accomplishments should be honoured by the government. On priority they should be given secure jobs, provided with financial assistance to establish their own enterprises, assign special quota for them in workplaces, encourage private establishments to hire them by allowing tax cuts and most important of all, give them representation rights so that they are not side-lined in major decisions. It would be unfair if a few high achievers are not given due public recognition.
Aisha Moghul, earned an MPhil degree in human resource management from COMSATS University, Islamabad is working in Ministry of Human Rights and as an expert consultant of UNDP. She has had the privilege of being the first transgender to represent Pakistan in the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva, Switzerland in 2020. She has taught at the Quaid-i-Azam University for some time and has to her credit, research articles published in peer review journals.
Alisha Sherazi is the first transgender MPhil degree holder from Mian Channu in Southern Punjab. Named Syed Ali Raza at birth, she adopted the new name after her transformation. Although supported by her maternal grandparents until intermediate, she was forced to dance to pay for higher education and from support of her community. Unable to get admission in PhD she, according to her, opened in Multan the first school in the world for educating transgender children.
Fiaz Ullah, better known as Faizi, bright and young MPhil in Urdu is now formally teaching intermediate level at a private college in Lahore. Her confidence is quite enthralling as she gracefully made her way through all kinds of difficulties to reach this place in life.
Dr. Sarah Gill, the first transgender medical doctor, now working in Government of Sindh had to face many obstacles but having achieved this status she is fully geared to take on the welfare of her community in addition to aiming for specialising in Endocrinology so as to take care of peculiar health issues of the transgender population.
These are the highly educated members of the transgender community and it is important to expose their talents to the public so that they are shown respect and revered for doing what only proficient humans are capable of doing. Others in their category are also learning to co-exist in the most adverse of circumstances and in the face of sinister men who lose no moment to harass and torture them. Rimal Ali is one such brave stalwart whose beautiful looks and dashing personality has caused insecurity to her colleagues in show business and in January 2021 she was subjected to the worst form of torture, which if inflicted on a female could have led to severe punishment.
Here is where law needs to take its fair course. If a transgender opts as a female she should enjoy the same rights as any other woman. These are some anomalies that must be removed to bridge the gulf between marginal communities and the public. Some of the famous activists of the transgender community include Bindiya Rana, Almas Bobby and Nayab Ali who are struggling hard, fighting for rights and equitable stature for their people. It is hoped that the time is not far when human beings are considered as human beings regardless of their sexual orientation. If by chance the supposedly normal are in majority there is no reason to adopt a fascist attitude towards this socially marginalized community.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)