by Kasim Osmani
Browsing through e-papers has had been my routine over the past few years, partly because of the nature of my profession, and partly, because I am in a habit of it. Every day, I glance through a flood of news updates; Nawaz Sharif’s peace committee, government’s dialogue offer to the Taliban, the Sindh festival, Musharraf case, so on and so forth. Nothing caught my attention more than the Sindh government’s recent move in which three transgender have been employed as state servants. It is certainly a historic move in a country much criticized for human rights violation.
As a matter of fact, Pakistani society has got quite a peculiar mindset when it comes to transgender. You cannot befriend transgender, interact or talk to them openly. You don’t find them doing business or respectable jobs, or even being considered a member of society. They are merely a laughingstock, a piece of entertainment, and are treated more like Achoots in our largely Muslim-dominated society. You find them dancing n singing in marriage ceremonies, adding to the festivity, or at child birth ceremonies or other celebrations; and of course, begging remains their major source of income. People in our society are more sympathetic in terms of giving alms to transgenders, fearing that their curse could inflict bad luck upon them.
This historic decision by the Sindh government has its roots back in 2009 when the PPP-led government officially recognized the transgender community as Pakistani citizens issuing them CNICs. Yet again, the PPP’s Sindh government has set a precedence for all other provincial governments by appointing three transgender persons; Rauf alias Rafi Khan, Mazhar Anjum, and Muskan, in its social welfare department. The fact that Rauf, alias Rafi Khan, holds a double Master’s degree in Economics and Political Science must quell any doubts that transgender appointments have been made out of empathy. There are about 500,000 transgender persons in Pakistan. This is a huge lot. They need to have all the rights and privileges such as health, education, and employment.
Above all, it is extremely important to discourage the mindset that stereotypes this community. They should exist in a socially acceptable environment where nobody is discriminated, mal-treated, or even ‘pointed at’ for having different sexual orientation. To do so, the provincial governments, NGOs and other social welfare organizations must come forward and play a role. The government should encourage volunteers from schools, colleges and universities to spread the awareness of such, seemingly unimportant, but critical social issues.
The Sindh government’s move is very promising, however, just a drop in the ocean. There is a need for a more radical change in the way we treat the transgender persons. Though hate-mongers might call it another attempt to divert the nation’s attention to the core issues, they must know that Pakistani society is considered the most dangerous one in terms of human rights violations. Thus, any such move not only serves in giving due rights to the oppressed ones, but also earns good name for Pakistan.