By Minerwa Tahir
KARACHI: Transgender people – who hasn’t seen them? In rural areas, they are called to dance at times of joy such as weddings and births of children. In urban settings, we can spot them anywhere, from shopping centres and roads to mazaars and hospitals. They are humans just like any other man or woman yet are treated as some kind of an alien population. People have this sense of entitlement towards them – we will stare, mock and harass them in every possible way. Be it the general population on the roads or the media, we have seen horrible examples of ill treatment being meted out to them simply because of their gender.
Late Tuesday night, harassment of transgender persons was taken to extreme levels once again. Transwoman Chanda, 25, was shot dead in Shahbaz Commercial area, Defence Housing Authority (DHA), when unidentified men opened fire on a group of transgender people standing in the street.
People belonging to the transgender community say that it is a nightly routine for a group of unidentified men in a white vehicle – sometimes it is a Toyota Corolla, Prado at others – to hurl eggs and water at the transgender people out on the streets. A similar incident took place Tuesday night and Chanda’s group retaliated with verbal abuses. The vehicle, bearing tinted glasses and private security guards, first passed by the transgender people and later returned. The men opened fire at the group, and Chanda received gunshot wounds. As a result, she died. Police have registered a case against unidentified men on her father’s complaint. Chanda was a resident of Korangi area.
Naturally, the already oppressed transgender community went into shock.
“I learnt about the incident around 3:30am and was there till 6am, after which we shifted the body to the morgue,” said Bindiya Rana, the president of Gender Interactive Alliance and a revered mother figure in the transgender community, while speaking to Samaa. “We are extremely scared. We never get jobs – how do they expect us to feed ourselves? Obviously, Chanda and these kids stand in these areas, hoping that some rich guy will give them a Rs500 note.”
Bindiya shared that an FIR has been registered at the Darakhshan police station. “When CM has alerted the police and Rangers, how can someone kill our people on the roads?” she lamented. “Is the number of transgender persons so high in the census that they need to kill us to minimize our number? I wish the government would allocate some funds for the transgender community so that we can learn some skill and earn a respectable earning instead of living in sin.”
Bindiya said they will approach the Karachi commissioner and will also stage a protest.
Kami Sid, a transgender person and human rights activist, said that they are even scared of protesting now. “It’s a murder of entire humanity, not just one transgender person,” she said. “We are scared of even staging protests now. We will consider legal action.”
Salman Khan, another human rights activist belonging to TransReach Pakistan (a transgender rights organization) told Samaa that the community is very concerned about safety. “We are very concerned that the law enforcement agencies are not able to help out the transgender community, especially those transgender people who are living around Badar Commercial and other DHA areas,” he said. “I have friends living there and I am concerned for their safety. Obviously, I won’t name them for security reasons. Some of them are high-end dancers and sex workers.”
He lamented that there was no one to guarantee the security of transgender people. “Our law enforcement agencies are failing us,” he said. “There are certain people with power and influence, who are known for harassing and abusing transgender people. They are also known for picking up transgender people and forcing themselves on them after taking them to undisclosed locations.”
Unfortunately, he said, Chanda was not safe. “The community is in shock. But what can we expect from law enforcement when transgender people are underrepresented even in the census?”
Meanwhile, police officials say they are trying to obtain CCTV footage of the incident. According to the police, the case has been registered on the complaint of the father of the deceased. The deceased was a resident of Korangi No 6. The suspects are still at large.
Last year, a transwoman, Alisha, was shot in Peshawar and was denied treatment at the Lady Reading Hospital, after which she succumbed to her injuries. Similar cases of ill treatment towards transgender persons are reported frequently.
Story first published: 30th August 2017