Surge in attacks against transgender women in Pakistan

Pakistan Farzana Jan

A Pakistani transgender activist who was shot and allegedly deprived of hospital treatment has died, the latest victim of a wave of violence against the community.

Human Rights Watch are demanding Pakistani authorities  urgently investigate the rise in violent attacks on transgender women in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Last month, unidentified assailants in Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, shot Sumbal, a transgender woman, three times in the abdomen when she resisted abduction and rape.

The district hospital refused to admit her, saying they only have male and female wards, and therefore could not treat a transgender person.

“The surge in brutal attacks on transgender women in Pakistan will only end when authorities signal that they will hold the attackers to account,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Hospital staff and police need to stop their humiliating treatment of transgender people and start protecting their rights.”

The attack on Sumbal was the latest of several recent attacks against transgender people in this province in northwestern Pakistan.

Pakistani law includes provisions to protect the rights of transgender people. In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court called on all provincial governments to recognise the rights of transgender people.

Human Rights Watch urged the provincial government to arrange for police to work with transgender communities and organisations and to introduce sensitivity training in accordance with the 2009 Supreme Court judgement.

“Police involvement in abuses against transgender people has generated profound mistrust between the community and provincial authorities,” Adams said. “Authorities abusing transgender women and threatening them when they seek justice should be seen as a threat to all Pakistanis – a sign of the government’s failure to ensure basic safety for all.”

Around 45 transgender people have been killed in the last two years in the region, according to activist Farzana Jan. There are estimated to be around 50,000 transgender persons living in Pakistan.

She said the police typically took them to the police station, taunted them, forcibly removed their clothing, ordered them to dance, and poured cold water on them when they refused. When they complained, they were subjected to further abuse.

“Transgenders in Pakistan suffer discrimination and stigma every day,” said Rifee Khan, of the Gender Interactive Alliance.

“Many are extremely poor or homeless and lack education because their families disown them, so they turn to begging, dancing and sex work to survive.”

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