Why shouldn’t our transgender community have a job quota in Punjab?

Published: February 22, 2015
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Pakistani transgenders carry placards as they rally to mark World Aids Day in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

In April 2013, Pakistan saw a new ray of hope, as transgender candidates filled in nominations from different constituencies, in different parts of the country. Not only were they given the right to vote, but the Supreme Court also gave them the right to own a National Identity Card, a legal share in their family’s inheritance as well as a reserved two percent quota of jobs in all sectors.

As Bindiya Rani, the president of the Sindh chapter of the Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA), so beautifully puts it,

“People kept asking me what the outcomes of the elections would be. I strongly feel that I won the day I submitted my nomination papers. That was my victory.”

This step was truly a highly significant moment for the transgender population of Pakistan, who was previously denied access to basic education and healthcare, and had been living on the margins of the Pakistani society as entertainers, beggars and sex workers.

Last year, the Sindh government actually took a step further within this movement and gave government jobs to three transgender people in Karachi. This just went on to prove how the Sindh minister for social welfare, women development and special education had been actively involved in complying with the decision of the Supreme Court as well as fighting for the rights of this mistreated minority in Pakistan. What amazes me the most about this movement is, that these individuals have, against all odds, fought for their rights as well as secured themselves within this society.

Pakistan is not the only country that has been mistreating this particular segment of its population. It has been happening over the past few years, in almost all South Asian countries. Nevertheless, I believe it is not only the West that has been experiencing this new cultural transgender revolution.

The Supreme Court of India has also recognised them as a third gender, and have enjoined upon them all fundamental rights, as well as special rights to education and jobs. Padmini Prakash, 31, has recently been hired as India’s first transgender news anchor and is currently working in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Amid this huge revolution within South Asia, I felt a little disappointed last Monday, after hearing Punjab Assembly’s decision not to give the transgender community a separate quota for jobs. The minorities minister Khalil Tahir Sindhu mentioned that the transgender community can compete on open merit as their registered number is not enough for them to qualify for the facility of having a separate quota.

I strongly believe that even though the Supreme Court has passed certain laws regarding transgender persons, it is our moral duty to fight for their rights towards education as well as job opportunities. This movement is one essential step towards breaking free from the social stigmas of our country, and could potentially affect about 500,000 transgender people living in Pakistan.

Zehrish, a member of the GIA, a transgender activist and a health worker, pointed out earlier in 2013 how her appearance caused her to face severe discrimination within her educational institution. She has completed her MA from the University of Karachi and has received multiple distinctions in her school life. This, in itself, just goes to show how capable and strong these individuals are. With a little bit of empathy, we could make life for them easier in so many ways.

Educational institutions, workplaces, as well as the people of Pakistan in general, need to start owning these individuals as regular citizens. Instead of turning a blind eye to their presence, we need to educate our community as well as the upcoming generations to not out-rightly reject the transgender population. Furthermore, Punjab needs to stand up for their rights at this stage, as well as enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding a job quota for them.

In case the government is not able to reserve the right of a mere two percent quota for them in government institutions, we need to take this responsibility to reserve a quota for them in our workplaces. There are many educated transgender individuals who should be employed – they deserve a chance at improving their standard of living as much as anyone else does. If they are not educated, they should be trained at different companies so as to acquire a skill that may give them the opportunity to work.

Without this quota, and being the marginalised community that they are, it will become extremely difficult for a transgender person to secure a job. Not only would this situation lead to more social evils, but Pakistan could be losing out on a major sector of its population, which could have the potential to contribute positively to our nation.

If we do not empower these individuals today, they may never be able to secure their rights, and may be forced back into becoming outcasts within this nation, with little access to basic human rights.

Zainab Bhatti

Zainab Bhatti

The author is a graduate from Lahore University of Management Sciences and is currently working on the US Aid Power Distribution Program. She is essentially involved in issues related to women empowerment within the energy sector. Other than that, she loves reading as well as painting.

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