I was on my way back from a family lunch with my family. My mother was emphasizing on my aunt’s amazing cook, my father nodded the entire way and my brother annoyed me with his music selection and the same time the man in the car next to us started screaming abuses at someone.
I was horrified to see that the reason of such anger was just a beggar who happened to be a eunuch (hijra as commonly known).
The same person came to our car and I just gave the only change I luckily had in my pocket. With heightened anger I said, ‘How can people behave this way to any human?’ and there was no reply as the punk rock song continued to play and I was lost in thought about so many things regarding the eunuch.
Pakistan is a country which is famous for having a third gender community also known as hijras and khuwajasaaras.
While there are no official precise figures on the number of transgender or third-gender people living in the country, estimates range from 80,000 to 350,000-500,000, with 60-70,000 in Karachi alone. You will find them on the streets begging and doing what they know best, at wedding and joyous events dancing and that is about pretty much it.
Their dance has been popular for decades now and yet the understanding of their existence isn’t. Their standard of living remains the same since the past 70 years. This is because people born with the third gender are shunned by the society and even by their own families.
They are not allowed in any public place where people usually go.
Having a white collar job is out of the question as they cannot even enter the premises of an educational center.
They are not even allowed to have a blue collar jobs such as maids, cooks and guards.
Even if they were given the opportunity to work, they do not have education to take them up the ladder. They don’t have the opportunity to be in normal schools and get a proper education. This injustice of all sorts continues the vicious cycle of poverty and a horrific standard of living.
It all comes down to the society and their acceptance by it.
Where some regard them as saints and their blessings and bad-duas are taken very seriously but on the other hand some don’t even consider them a human- a living, breathing entity.
What I can’t comprehend is that what is so shameful and saddening is that who are we to treat them like they are beneath us? They are born like this and they have no control over it.
They are humans too then how can we rid them of the chance to get an education and earn a steady livelihood?They have to resort to prostitution, dancing and begging. Our society which so cruelly rejects them also goes to them to fulfill their sexual desire which further shows our hypocrisy.
I believe it’s a trickle-down effect that comes from our upbringing. The ignorance of empathy to all humans, especially them, the shunning of them by everyone, the death of the idea to let them have education and mingle with other human beings and not just of their kind.
I can have a long list of things to blame and I am a part of it too.
The problem goes further than just education and employment issues, it is literally a matter of life and death and mafia for some of them. The society has made them as untouchable as possible and making them as vulnerable as one can imagine that they are exploited in every way by various mafias. The infamous Alisha murder case is just one example of hundreds that do not even get registered.
The violence rate for almost 100% and the death rate particularly in Peshawer is on a rise with 45 being the average number.
So what does one do? Do we change our mindsets or wait for government to do something. To many people’s surprise.
The Supreme Court has designated transgender people as a third gender, which under law should afford them protection, but in practice, Kamran Arif, vice president of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said transgender people bear the brunt of some of the worst discrimination. They are sexually abused, assaulted and even murdered.
The only change seen currently is their right to have their national identity cards made.
The Supreme Court announced a 2 percent quota for transgender individuals in all government and non-government departments, which they never received which is not really shocking at all.
When the society refuses to accept them as respected citizens or even humans, their fate is tangled with streets, abuses and dance shows. We need to create acceptance within ourselves and teach the same to our younger generation as the current seems too rigid for everything.
A life is a life, a human is a human. Anyone could have been born that way, what is given by God shouldn’t be shunned and frowned upon should be the thinking of a country that thrives and does almost everything in the name of God and religion.
It is the mindset to change where we try to hide our kids which in turn instills a fear and negativity in them for the community. We have to change the mindsets which have been passed down since generations and accept them as human beings. We should all take a deep look at ourselves and think about the bubble we live in. Do not abandon your children who are born like this.
Furthermore, do not treat whoever khuwajasaaras like outcasts who are worth nothing. They are people with a heart, with a mind, with feelings. They deserve to have a normal life too.
We need to ensure that no more Alishas are killed just because of who they are and how they are born and we need to ensure tolerance within ourselves to let them exist and do as they please just like we do. We need to ensure that their existence is okay and so is their right to everything that everyone else does.
The sense of community and life among themselves is vital and strong enough to keep them going. Last year on Chand Raat, I saw a group of beautifully dressed eunuchs buy mehndi, bangles and second hand shoes all the while laughing and enjoying their shared cold drinks and a policeman came running and made them leave the gloriously lit street.
I smiled and the only thought I had was ‘Thank God they have each other! We wouldn’t even let them enjoy Eid.’ On a more positive note, my mother and I had our mehndi done that night by a young transgender named Shabnam who then shared with us that we were her last customers that night and she intended to buy a new shirt for her younger brother at home for Eid.
She said to us when we were leaving that, ‘I wish everyone treated us the way some people treat their pets and like all of my five customers treated me tonight. This much respect will help me last till next year’s Chand Raat.’