Transgender Community Faces Threats by ‘Powerful Individuals’

The Khwaja Sira community is allegedly facing threats by “powerful individuals” through video and audio communication.

The Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA), an organization pursuing equality and civil rights of transgender persons in Pakistan, informed Aurat March Karachi on July 13 of threats sent by an influential group of people calling for “jihad” against the Khwaja Sira community.

In a statement uploaded on Twitter by Aurat March Karachi, the group said that it had been informed by the GIA of almost 200 credible threats through audio and video messages.

“The GIA stressed to us the ‘alarming increase’ in the violence against trans folks, stating that the latest threats from ‘certain political party workers’ have led to heightened fear among members of the community,” the statement said.

Aurat March Karachi also noted that this violence continues with impunity despite promises by authorities to protect the rights of transgender persons in the country, as well as the introduction of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 over three years ago. The law was passed in May 2018, guaranteeing basic rights for transgender citizens and outlawing discrimination by employers. The law granted individuals the right to self-identify as male, female, or a blend of genders, and to have that identity registered on all official documents.

The group also said that the violence continues in spite of a letter written in September 2020 by over two dozen European members of parliament to the Pakistani government expressing concern about trans rights in the country.

Aurat March Karachi further called for an immediate meeting between the Sindh inspector-general of police and transgender community leaders alongside feminist activists to address these safety concerns.

Violence against transgender folk

A 2018 report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) cited estimates by local group Trans Action, which said that 479 attacks against transgender women were reported in KP in 2018. At least four transgender women were killed in the province within the same year, and at least 57 trans persons have been killed there since 2015.

The HRW also noted the May 4 fatal shooting of transgender woman Muni in Mansehra district, which attracted national attention. It also said that Pakistan’s penal code criminalises same-sex sexual conduct, placing transgender women and the general LGBT community at risk of police abuse, and other violence. Other prominent incidents include an attack on trans rights activist Nayyab Ali on November 9 2020, when she was physically assaulted and robbed at her home in Islamabad by two men.

Such attacks on trans people are unfortunately common, and the recent threats being sent to trans individuals represent one incident in a long string of prolonged marginalisation.

Romessa Nadeem is a Project Coordinator at Media Matters for Democracy, which runs the Digital Rights Monitor.

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