Mohammad Ali, President of the Roshni Helpline Trust, a Pakistan NGO which helps vulnerable groups, told the Express Tribune that the transgender community is more socially and economically vulnerable. They are not welcomed in relief camps and do not have easy access to services which may be available to other internally displaced persons (IDPs).
National identity cards (which many people from the transgender community still do not have) are required for accessing relief services such as Watan Cards, shelter and non-food items, Ali says.
The Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA), a Karachi-based organization that fights for the rights of this marginalized community, is trying to help about 25 transgender people who have lost everything in this year’s floods with shelter and food. But most help needs aren’t reaching the group, they say. They are also collecting funds to run free medical camps in Sindh and Balochistan.
There are about 16,000 to 17,000 transgender people settled in the flood-affected Sindh province. However, neither the government nor any NGO is maintaining figures on the affected and displaced people from this community.
30-year-old Saniya lost her three room house in Sindh and has no place to go. She is not welcome at any relief camp because other people are not ready to live with her. Neither can she get relief aid because she does not have a national identity card, and “besides, normal people are considered more genuine.”
Many other trans people have been affected by the disaster, she says.
“There are several others languishing silently in pain. Business has also gone down because most people I used to entertain have been displaced,” Saniya adds.
Commonly in Pakistan, transgenders have either been entertainers, sex workers or beggars.
Although throughout the Indian sub-continent they have occupied a unique position ever since the Mughal empire in the 16th Century when they were given special roles in the royal court, they do suffer in Pakistan. In Peshawar, in August, the City police took seven men into custody after transvestites complained of being sexually harassed and physically tortured by them.
Pakistan is the second country after Nepal to introduce a third gender category on its national identity cards.
Although recognizing the community as having its own gender category will not solve all of the transgenders’ problems, Pakistan’s Supreme Court made further recommendations, saying that transgenders should also be allocated a certain number of government jobs.
It is specifically recommended that they be appointed as tax collectors to utilize their “special skills.”
Picture Salman Siddiqui
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