‘Punish’ the eunuchs, because they are ‘vulgar’

Published: June 19, 2012

In a country where religious discrimination is routine, why should sexual orientation be treated any differently? PHOTO: AFP

We are most likely to get angry and excited in our opposition to some idea when we ourselves are not quite certain of our own position, and are inwardly tempted to take the other side.

Apt words by Thomas Mann.

Life is hard for most Pakistani’s but for those of us who are different – whether by accident or by choice – survival is certainly an achievement. The transgender community of Multan realised this recently when the ASWJ demanded that their members be punished for spreading vulgarity in society.

So now, an entire community is to be ‘punished’ for the sins, maybe, of a few?

What gross generalisation.

I wondered why this particular piece of news held my attention. In a country where religious discrimination is routine, why should sexual orientation be treated any differently?

Deviance can be defined as any behaviour that violates social norms, and is usually of sufficient severity to warrant disapproval from a major part of society. It can either be criminal or non-criminal. In their efforts to understand it, developed societies have ascertained a certain degree of tolerance towards non-criminal deviance.

There is a fair amount of consensus over the scientific worldview and individualism is the chief determinant of tolerance in any society. The question is whether it is a desirable goal in the context of the Pakistani society or not. Much as I hate neologism, the current trend of “tribalising” religious moral codes has set the society upon a course of rejection of all that doesn’t fit into our narrow criterion.

In order to comprehend the reaction of ASWJ, one must first try to understand what the ‘Transgender Association’ represents. The terms Hijra or Khusra have always been regarded as derogatory in our society. Without any knowledge of what subtypes comprise this group, they are stereotyped as unpleasant, undesirable, vulgar and a bit of a joke.

We completely disregard the fact that they include people born with gender anomalies. Majority of these people have no control over their behaviour and in a country like Pakistan where subjects like sex are taboo, many do not even give heed to their feelings.

While associating sexual promiscuity to the entire group is unfair, generalising them to be vulgar is downright inhumane.

When a society relegates particular groups to specific roles such as singing and dancing on celebratory occasions, I believe, it becomes condemnable by contemporary social standards.

According to the rulings of Islam, there are many examples where transgenders were protected. However, sexual promiscuity among the group was prohibited. So, the moral custodians of today who claim allegiance to the very tradition should reconsider their position on the subject because it seems that they are influenced by classical social attitudes rather than the doctrine.

At a time when the state has officially recognised the identity of transgender groups, would it not be prudent to reconsider our attitudes towards them as a society?

Is it fair to judge them on the basis of gender?

Is it justified to deprive them of the rights that they deserve?

It’s time to think.

Follow Rafay on Twitter @mrafayzafar

Muhammed.Rafay.Zafar

Muhammed Rafay Zafar

A consultant Neurosurgeon who graduated from Dow Medical College in 1986 and lives in Saudi Arabia now. He tweets @mrafayzafar

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    @Writer
    According to the rulings of Islam, there are many examples where transgenders were protected
    How you state this. Do you have any substantial proof. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/613/komal-ali/ Komal Ali

    Brilliantly stated! We need to revaluate our attitudes not only towards eunuchs, but towards anything and anyone who is different in any aspect of their personality — be it sexual, religious, social or any other. As a society, we have evolved into a fatwa passing machine, and that must be stopped because we have no authority to judge anyone. I wish more people like you raise their voices and snap our society out of the shackles of normativity and bias.Recommend

  • H.

    @Sane:

    Gee, “Sane”, nobody in our society ever yells “where’s your evidence?” whenever some ahadis pops up that sounds really far-fetched (like this one I heard that apparently angels are afraid of DOGS. Particularly ones with those markings above their eyes) and is probably really a tribal superstition wrapped up in an “islamic” disguise…

    So if someone says “Islam protects oppressed minority of the moment” or “Islam demands you stop treating non-Muslims like garbage” or something that advocates social justice, and THEN someone else yells asking for proof… it really shows off society’s true colors.Recommend

  • Confused

    Let me reply: it’s unfair, and also unjustified. You need to talk to ASWJ about it though, I never thought they were fair to begin with.Recommend

  • Sane

    @H
    Stating something as Islam says means it is either in Holy Quran or in Ahadis. Both are verifiable. If not so can not be quoted. Arguments of ‘here and there’ does not weakens the version as I said. Thanks for no more debate of this.Recommend

  • Someone random

    I don’t know about Multan, but here in Islamabad/Rawalpindi, a lot of males dress up as mixed-gender humans, just so they can make a business of begging. They have none of the markings of these people, just over-done make-up. For example, all their voices are either male or very obviously faked. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that males have a low sympathy in this society so they fake their identity just to earn money, just as females fake certificates for medicines. One day, I gave one of them about Rs. 100, and they started begging for around Rs. 2,000 instead. My personal belief (and I don’t intend to pass a fatwa here) is simply that if you’re able to earn, you’re not allowed to beg. Mazdoori during construction (or similar) is more respectable that this form of earning.Recommend

  • 1984

    @Sane:
    So,whats your point??? If something is not in Quran or Hadith,you wont follow it even if it is justified by basic human rights…..

    This is the problem which pervades many hardcore islamists,you look at your book for anything and everything in life…..

    May I ask you,computer is never mentioned in Quran,then how come are you using one??Recommend

  • You guys make me sick!!

    Lgbt’s whether by choice or by birth are people who suffer all their life!! Have you ever imagined how hard it is for them to live in this society? Imagine yourself being made fun of and humiliated every time you pick yourself up.Even your family and loved ones hating for what you are.
    Its a trauma being them not because they are like that but its us who exploit there weakness just so we get amused.
    Its us who aid them in becoming extremists as we continue to blab making them dismiss social life and do whatever they want.
    But does it matter to us? No, right? As long as we are happy sitting in our comfy houses.
    Just imagine yourself in their shoes and think what you could’ve done!
    I don’t know what Islam says on this but for me my religion preaches humanity and peace. Even if the society hates me for doing something lets say patting a dog which is widely known as ‘paleet’, I would do that without caring what people have to say. At least I know my religion and my intentions that are pure. doesn’t matter what people have to say.Recommend

  • http://Karachi ashar

    There is no need to go into the debate what Islam delibrates for eunuchs, the idea behind the demand of ASWJ is quite convincing and everybody who drive in Karachi, stop at the signals know that how far this menace has now gone. The eunuchs dressed with abject vulgarity are seen almost folding their bodies into your car window and asking for money. A man travelling with his family always feel embarrassed not because their begging but with their dress up. I am surprised why the writer did not mention this situation in his article or he endorses it that they should start appearing in more revealing dresses as their transgender right.

    As for Islam, a eunuch having an appearance of a woman should follow the course of a woman while the one like a male should follow the course of a man to live their life in this world and finally every thing will be decided in the Hereafter based on what we do in this world and every short coming of this world would be compensated there forever.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/kamrankhan Kamran Khan

    The only hope for this country is secularism.Recommend

  • Malik Rashid

    What is considered vulgar in Pakistan? Does the third gender assignment of neither man nor woman, amount to discrimination, or not? They are “born with gender anomalies” the author states, so, is it appropriate to identify their sexual attitudes as ‘deviance’? Normal sexual behavior in Pakistani society dictates that sexuality must be denied in public. This hypocritic-unhealthy attitude breeds violence. A woman wearing shirt without sleeves in 42 degree C is vulgar according to Pakistani standards. A chance to force a boy or a girl into a secluded corner, to impose sexually upon the vulnerable, is the dream of many. Hijra cannot be forced to wear a full-cover burqa like a woman. This lack of control irks the mullas. Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    I wonder why my civil rights need to be sanctioned by your religion in the first place?

    Why do homosexuals, transgenders, eunuchs, atheists…and all those that you excommunicated, have their very existence depending on your religion’s approval. The only life your religion may govern is your own.

    This endless discussion on our status and worth in the light of your religion is futile, as it follows the fallacious assertion that our freedom is yours to hand out to us as you see fit.Recommend

  • zahra.mohammed

    Ahmed’s comment has been removed. Tha

    Recommend

  • zahra.mohammed

    Ahmad’s comment has been removed. Thank you for pointing it out.

    Recommend

  • H.

    @Zahra
    Wow.

    thanks, I wasn’t expecting that.Recommend

  • Rafay Zafar

    @Sane; this has been copied from a website titled multaqa Ahle Hadeeth; hope it satisfies your query!

    According to the Scholar and hadith collector An-Nawawi (RA):

    A mukhannath is the one (“male”) who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy.

    Furthermore there is the observation of Ibn Abd Al-Barr who was a contemporary of An-Nawawi:

    The mukhannath is not only the one who is known to be promiscuous. The mukhannath is (also?) the one who looks so much like a woman physically that he resembles women in his softness, speech, appearance, accent and thinking. If he is like this, he would have no desire for women and he would not notice anything about them. This is one of those who have no interest in women who were permitted to enter upon women. ”

    The Mukhannathun were given a high status in the times of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) as being “guardians of sacred boundaries” even gave them the privilege to guard not only the “harem” of women, but also the most sacred “harem” in Makkah and the one in Madinah. From the 12th century on it is reported that they were the dignified guardians of the grave of the noble Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), a custom that held on until the end of the Ottoman rule over the two sacred cities.

    Sadly the high place given to the mukhannathun in Muslim society did not survive the colonial times. It was the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) who first gave such a high position of authority to the Mukhannathun but when Ottoman rule ended then that is when Islams rule ended. 

    When the kufaar regimes moved in the high position of the Mukhannathun was over. So it is Islam which gave the Mukhannathun such a high position. Afterwards ignorance spread and unfortunatley we are in a state of ignorance today about many issues and matters.

    May Allah open our eyes and make us the best towards others. AmeenRecommend

  • Vikram

    This is some thing created by God. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

    More about eunuchs….

    At the court of the Ottoman sultans, the harem staff commonly included eunuchs. These were slaves, either captured in war (mainly Christian Europeans in the Balkans) or recruited within the empire (especially from the Caucasus and blacks from Sudan) or even beyond (especially in Abyssinia). Black eunuchs usually were Sandali (i.e. their genitalia were entirely amputated), hence they were preferred for harem service, while White eunuchs usually kept part of their penis and/or testicles, so they were assigned to less ‘intimate’ duties, e.g. secretarial. They were often donated to the Sultan by his governors, in total about six- to eight hundred

    .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_HaremRecommend

  • Huria

    The problem in our society is that we do not accept them in mainstream jobs. So they have no choice but to resort to dancing etc as a means to feed themselves. So it is a chicken and egg situation.
    I live in Malaysia and I can never differentiate an eununch from a gay, because their identities dont exist separately. They both work in in all professions including education. Recommend

  • raw is war

    According to the rulings of Islam, there are many examples where transgenders were protected. However, sexual promiscuity among the group was prohibited.

    And why may I ask? They are humans too. They have their own pleasures and dreams. Who has any right to stop them?Recommend

  • haroon ali

    Why do all eunuchs either are beggars or dancers? Being man, woman or an eunuch is not a problem because it might not be their fault, but choosing to be beggars and creating nuisance value all the time is definitely a choice that they have made for themselves. Why don’t ever I see an eunuch who is a shopkeeper or doing a job or in some other business? Recommend

  • Sane

    @1984
    Your argument is irrelevant to the point I raised. Please read my comments once again to understand.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Rafay Zafar
    Although I do not want to indulge in anymore debate in this respect. May be you must be knowing more than me that now a days there are many Ahadis and Translations of Holy Qur’an uploaded on various websites which are not correct and deceptive and purposed to shake beliefs of Muslims.

    I do not care if any one differs to what I say. But, this is the reality.Recommend

  • Zalim singh

    Most Islamic rulers had eunchs as their lovers. And most Pakistanis will not lose a chance to get their hands on one of them.Recommend

  • Sunny

    Transgenders are also God’s Creature, its inhuman to discriminate with them and to label them as vulger, we should not be so inhumane to them, they should be seen with respect. Recommend

  • Noor

    @haroon ali:
    They do adopt other professions but normally don’t create a hype around by telling everybody around that they are.

    Anyway, a well written article & response by Rafay.Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    @Zalim singh:

    Most Islamic rulers had eunchs as their lovers

    Even Muhammad Ghori (I believe Pak has a missile named after him) simply divided his empire amongst his most favored slaves.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Why don’t ever I see an eunuch who is a shopkeeper or doing a job or in some other business?

    Do you think eunuchs and transgenders get a lot of job offers here in Pakistan?

    Do you think Pakistanis are keen on hiring eunuchs to sit at their reception desks? Would a government hospital easily hire a eunuch doctor, and more importantly, will a patient allow the eunuch to examine him? Would a local gourmet restaurant hire a transgender to serve food there?Recommend

  • Vikram

    Why don’t ever I see an eunuch who is a shopkeeper or doing a job or in some other business?

    Do you go and look into every guys pants to see if they have normal genitals?
    One can only tell if some one has a problem if one has a big scrotum like this guy
    Go to website and see this guy, who has testicles that weigh like 100 pounds

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2161294/Wesley-Warren-Jr-Man-100-pound-scrotum-REJECTS-free-1m-corrective-surgery.html

    With hormonal treatments, eunuches can be made to look like a perfect woman or a man.
    Some transgenders men are competing in beauty contests as women.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    ASWJ themselves should have been banned and punished for their sectarianism and terrorist links with L-e-J much earlier. Now their brand of hate wants to grow like cancer by appealing to mainstream prejudice.

    Eunuchs aren’t the problem, they’re obviously discriminated and a nuisance at best due to unemployment. It is these intolerant hypocritical religious extremists, like ASWJ, who are vulgar, menacing and dangerous. Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/britpak Mohammed Abbasi

    These Mullahs indulge themselves in other peoples private lives without any sanction. Privacy between consenting adults is protected under Islamic Sharia – the only vulgarity is the non-stop blasphemy out of the mouths of these people and Pakistanis are scared to stand up and protect the people and Islam from this ‘blasphemy of the bearded ones’Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @ashar:
    You should punish them because looking at a man’s body you were uncomfortable !
    If youy were uncomfortable y did u not close your window ! Smeone’s smoking, way of talking, dressing up in bright colours, way of laughing, rude language, chewing a gum, chewing with their mouth open all can make smeone uncomfrtable or even disgusted then y dont we make a law against that !
    Social discourse is NOT s0mething that is penalized by law ! Neither its’ smethng that warrants organized institutional resistance.
    Now dress code is general & applies to all irrespective of sexuality yet again it should only be socially not legally binding ! with the exception of actual nudity…Recommend

  • Ali

    Grouping Transgenders with ‘Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals’ (LGBT) is wrong. Whereby Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals are a product of their choice or the environment. Transgenders are, on the other hand, born this way.
    There were eunuch living in Median; in one account one of them was witnessed by Hazrat Ali (R.A). Eunuch were given a role of message bearers and protectors of Harems in Usmani and later on by many ruling dynasties/classes including Mughals.
    We as a society need to realize that they are part of our society and should find their role in our progress, rather than leaving them to resort for begging and using other really vulgar means for living.Recommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan

    Eunuchs are diffirent from gays and lesbians. They don’t have proper genitalia. It’s not their fault. They are born that way. So they need our support and understanding towards them. CheerioRecommend

  • Please conduct thorough research

    I hope I’m not too late to post this, but being a candidate for M.Phil in gender studies I beg to differ. The argument put forth is highly opinionated. Particularly, author fails to support this statement:

    We completely disregard the fact that they include people born with gender anomalies. majority of these people have no control over their behaviour

    A study conducted by Dr Claude Migeon shows that only 1 out of every 2000 babies is born with genitalia ambiguity i.e. their sex is not clear. [This study is published in the journal of Pediatrics]. In short, their ratio is extremely low as compared to the common Hijras/khwaja saras we find walking around on the streets.

    Furthermore, a more relevant study that is currently under process by a Ph.D. candidate in Lahore and Kasur district shows that 85% of the Hijras are not castrated at all. They are commonly known as Akwa. The research is based on in-depth interviews, observation and ethnomethodology [i.e. based on how the subjects make sense of their own culture]. Study reveals that majority of the Hijras feel that they are stuck in a man’s body but have a woman’s soul. The point to be noted here is that their bodies have no physiological abnormalities whatsoever. They are simply males who choose to dress as females.

    The author has also claimed

    According to the rulings of Islam, there are many examples where transgenders were protected.

    Again a highly opinionated statement on author’s part. Islam does protect the rights of Eunuchs [they are to partake socially, should not be secluded (as in outcasted like in the case of Hijra community) and are also provided their share in inheritance]. But eunuchs are different from transgenders because, as stated above, they have physiological abnormality. Thorough research needs to be conducted to state what Islam says about transgenders without giving personal opinions.

    Personally, I feel author is trying to mix up two concepts that are poles apart: of eunuchs and of hijras. Hijras is a term I use in the sense of the community that partake in certain activities such as singing and dancing and in some cases more socially unacceptable behaviour in order earn a living [this behaviour is also not acceptable on part of women or even men, then why are only Hijras the focus of attention in this case?] Recommend

  • Please conduct thorough research

    Also the website [http://www.ahlalhdeeth.com] provided by the author is not sufficient to prove his point. The personality on whose name the website is based is himself a very controversial figure in Islamic history. Moreover, the whole culture of extracting knowledge from Imam Google needs to change [as in referencing through what you find on google]. In any serious research google is considered highly unreliable. Kindly provide with more evidence on the stated matter. Recommend

  • Cynical

    The author should be commended for bringing this topic in public domain.
    Lack of awareness among the general public is the problem.Recommend