Transvestites (eunuchs) should be allowed to identify themselves as a distinct gender as per the apex court’s ruling and they should be included in government support program so as to help them develop skills and become respectable and contributing members of society.
These views were expressed by speakers at the launching ceremony of a report on transvestites in Sindh compiled by journalist-cum-activist Akhter Hussain Baloch at Karachi Press Club on Sunday.
The participants expressed their concern that despite the Supreme Court orders that transvestites be issued CNICs and be hired in government jobs, the community continues to face neglect on the part of the state and society. It was observed that the demand by trans-gender group for a share from officially collected Zakat was fair and just. The participants recommended that measures be taken to ensure that transvestites could draw benefit from essential services in health and education sector.
The report, titled: “Third gender - a scoping study of the socio-cultural complex around the trans-gender communities of Sindh”, is prepared by the Society for Development and Human Rights in collaboration with ActionAid Pakistan.
The participants were of the view that transvestites happen to be the most neglected and excluded group of the country. Though Pakistani society was shy of talking about them, they had come out of the shadows following Supreme Court’s landmark judgment which ruled that transvestites were entitled to inheritance and other rights.
It was informed that following Supreme Court orders, a census of transvestites in Pakistan was carried out by the Social Welfare Department. But, ironically, the process did not deliver as the department came up with only about 1,500 registrations in Punjab and about 800 in Sindh. However, the participants observed that there were over 16,000 transvestites in Karachi alone and 0.4 million throughout Pakistan.
The speakers included Khizar Habib, Aziz Sanghur, Abu Rashid, Anis Mansoori and Javed Iqbal Burki. They said that the transvestites needed to be distinguished from sex workers, adding: “We must not discriminate against the people because of their sexual preferences”.
Akhtar Hussain Baloch, the author of the report, said that he has attempted to provide a rare insight into the social and cultural life of this group.
He said that the report provides cases of violent treatment meted out to transvestites by the police and other state agencies. The report comprises interviews of the victims / survivors, police officials involved, community elders, neighbours of the transvestites and lawyers.
According to him, the poor people of this group have often been deprived of their properties and resources, while the law remained heavily tilted in favour of the oppressors. The research work has also explored the lifestyle of the group e.g. their celebrations, dance, music, relationships i.e. marriages and other forms of co-habitation.