This is part of a limited series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things in order to give back to Pakistan.
Transgenders have always been a target of jokes and violence in Pakistan. The treatment of this community speaks volumes of our ability to empathize for minorities of all kinds. Children are taught to run away from hijray, men who don’t conform with the society’s expectation of what “being a man” is, are called khusray in order to shame them, and women are scared to interact with them.
Fortunately, despite such trying times, there are people who haven’t lost their humanity. Trans Action Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one such alliance that has been striving, day in day out, to put an end to trans-phobia in Pakistan for the past one and a half years.
This organization has dedicated itself to give transgenders a voice in Pakistan.
Back in 2008, FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Areas) underwent rapid talibanization, putting an end to all art, music and dance related activities in the region. As a result a colossal majority of the transgenders in FATA had to migrate to other cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, since most of them are traditionally circumscribed to dancing and singing on events. As if the trauma of displacement was not enough, the government as well as the UN and other disaster agencies decided to turn a blind eye towards the displaced transgenders, as apparently, they could only help families. Guess the members of transgender communities whose actual families shun them, and they live together as a family, are not family enough for NGOs or government organizations.
Deprived of the refugee camp protection, a fraction of this transgender community decided to launch a campaign against the United Nations’ discriminatory demeanor towards them.
The campaign titled ‘No to Gender Bind UN’ attracted some attention and that is when Bali and his other friends decided to formulate an alliance – Trans Action Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – a platform where they could openly voice their concerns.
At the outset, the team – comprising of 8 core members- began working towards mobilizing the transgender communities, inhabiting 18 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Previously, there existed several Shemale or Khawajasira associations in each of these cities, however, Trans Action Khyber Pakhtunkhwa struggled to bring all of them together under one platform. Currently, they are working to increase transgenders’ access to health care in addition to their efforts for trans inclusive livelihood programs and humanitarian responses.
Their journey, so far, has been laced with immense hatred and opposition from a majority of the population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In the past one year, almost 46 members of the community have been killed in cold blood while 1500 have gone through the traumas of rape, sexual harassment, violence and marginalization. 4 of their core team members have had to endure gun violence as a result of which, Alesha – one of the celebrated team members – lost her life on account of sheer negligence by the doctors.
While talking to Mangobaaz, Bali – one of the core team members – revealed that during a recent blood screening of 32 of their close members, 18 of them turned out to be HIV positive. “We get raped more often than you can think. Whenever we are invited to a wedding to perform, the male members take it on themselves to not let us go without raping us. We are threatened every day, we have to pay bhatta every month to certain gangs and if any of us chooses to back out or show resistance, they threaten to rape us or release our private videos on YouTube,” continued Bali, with a hint of melancholy visible in her voice.
To live in the constant fear of being killed is outright distressing. Imagine being deprived of the right to communicate your ideas and beliefs unreservedly. Imagine being robbed of the comfort of your own homeland. Imagine not being able to roam around freely, just because you were born looking differently than others around you.
It is a fate that nobody deserves.
The change, undeniably, is gradual and the prospect of a paradigm shift seems bleak, it is nonetheless probable. If you wish to help Trans Action Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in their efforts to end trans-phobia, contact them here.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out ‘14 Days, 14 Stories‘.
Cover Image Via: Trans Action Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Via Facebook