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Empathetic pandemic

By: Anas Kamal Pasha

2020 changed a lot of things, specifically March of 2020 made us familiar with a variety of new concepts. One of them being “Social distancing”. People were bewildered by such an unorthodox concept. Naturally human beings are social Animals and to be deprived of that social liberty is as if being deprived of Oxygen. While the world was in lock down and observing social distancing, the transgender citizens of Pakistan were not only familiar with the concept but had been observing it all their lives.

According to the 2017 census report, there are over 10,000 transgender in Pakistan, while the majority (64.4%) of them are living in Punjab. 7,651 people categorized as Transgender lived in urban areas while 2,767 lived in villages or rural areas of Pakistan.

An umbrella term of “khawajasiras” or “hijras” are used to name them. However, Trans activist preach to use the term “Khawajasiras” as this is politically correct. Tran’s babies or children are usually brought to a “Guru” the leader of a Tran’s community and are given to them by their families to take care of them if the family wishes to abandon them.

The transgender people are already the most marginalized community in Pakistan, they have no real chances at employment and even if they would like to run a business, it’s highly likely that nobody would be willing to trade with them. As a result they have to indulge in either begging, dancing or becoming sex workers. Their social life is also limited to their own community as well. The stereotype behind the word “Hijra” has made it almost impossible for the transgender to live a normal life as any citizen of Pakistan would also. You’d be surprised to know that, Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to recognize the “Third sex” back in 2009 and also started issuing Trans people passports from 2017, while many Tran’s people have also had a run in elections. They can vote, marry, be buried in cemeteries and pretty much possess all the rights belonging to a citizen of Pakistan.

Despite everything, they are still tortured, harassed, raped, bullied, unemployed, detested and killed in violence. It seems that giving them equal rights both from the constitutional and religious bodies has not made them acceptable to the Pakistani society. There still exists a mindset which sees them as god’s mistake instead of one of its unique and beautiful creations.

Coming back to the pandemic. During the lockdown, we have come to realize the importance of a lot of things that we may have taken for granted at some point. Forced isolation has given us to reflect on a tons of things, one of them being how blessed we are to freely move, to go wherever we choose to.

However it also made me realize how the most marginalized community in Pakistan feels 24/7 and 364 days a year! How, I would feel staying at my home most of the time in fear not of the virus but of the many ways my day could be ruined by my fellow Pakistani’s. It’s ironic how it took a global catastrophe for me to realize what social isolation really means and how one community has been living this nightmare since quite a long time but better late than never right?

It’s delightful to see a student run organization; Actcept working for the right and inclusion of transgender in our society. They invite powerful Tran’s personalities to events inside universities and ask them for speak and raise awareness regarding the Trans people of Pakistan. This helps the younger and upcoming generation get a different perspective about the Trans people. Presence of Tran’s personalities inside of universities and colleges provides a different setting, one that is far away from traffic signals where we usually find Trans people.

The purpose of this writing is not to incite any political or policy change for the Trans people. This writing has a more rudimentary approach of just accepting the Trans people, just passing them a smile instead of a snare, just asking them how they are and just consider them as human beings instead of the monsters we paint them to be. Just a silver lining of this empathetic pandemic.

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