Curtailed by longstanding traditions of patriarchy and social customs, transgender people in Pakistan suffer from exclusion, stigma and abuse. Estimated to number 500,000 within a population of 196 million, Pakistan’s transgender minority are deprived of their basic human rights and opportunities, while subjected to widespread harassment and attacks. This systematic discrimination translates into specific issues regarding identity registration, healthcare, inheritance, voting, employment, as well as education, making the transgender community one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in Pakistan.
In September 2012, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that transgender persons had equal rights with all citizens of Pakistan, ordering that a third gender category was to be included on national identity cards. The decision incorporated the right to life, property, dignity, and inheritance, thus marking a long awaited stride towards equal transgender citizenship and status. However, with no effective means of legal recourse to prevent, investigate or punish crimes committed against them, and with law enforcement often being a part of the problem, the transgender community continues to battle rampant intimidation and humiliation. It is therefore evident that entrenched social conventions, inadequate legislation as well as insufficient implementation of exciting policies underlie the inhumane treatment of trans-persons.
On the basis of these perilous conditions, the NHRF has decided to renew its support to the Good Thinkers Organization (GTO), which is working to secure and protect transgender rights in Pakistan. As a well-established organization, the GTO is specifically engaged in advocacy efforts towards government departments, law enforcement agencies, and religious leaders to enhance awareness and legal support for transgender persons. The organization also provides free legal support and counsel to hundreds of transgender people through the GTO-established Transgender Protection Network and its helpline. The Network consists of trans-persons, lawyers, media representatives and NGO personnel, working to ensure social acceptance of trans-persons while pushing for the creation of adequate legislation to fully protect and promote transgender rights.
The NHRF has provided technical and financial support to the GTO twice before, and is honored to have impacted some of the GTOs many success stories. During previous NHRF funded projects the GTO has directed human rights training sessions, generated advocacy and action plans, and conducted invaluable research and case studies. This significant work has substantially contributed to the overall promotion of transgender individuals’ basic human rights in Pakistan, and its continuation will accordingly be crucial for the achievement of their welfare, safety and prosperity.