Why did the doctors of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital refuse to treat a transgender patient?

Published: January 11, 2016

The entire transgender community in Pakistan has had to endure repeated verbal, physical and sexual abuse. PHOTO: TRANS ACTION KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA

Recently, in Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, a victim of a gunshot wound was left unattended for three hours. The patient was critically injured and the doctors refused to administer treatment. Moreover, the hospital staff was callous and impertinent.

The victim’s name was Adnan.

The whole incident sounds unreasonable, doesn’t it?

Why would the doctors refuse to touch a patient? Why would the hospital staff point and laugh at a dying person?

Well, Adnan is a transgender person.

The entire transgender community in Pakistan has had to endure repeated verbal, physical and sexual abuse. I felt particularly sorry when I learned my medical peers were involved in an act of discrimination.

I never thought doctors would engage in such an injustice as well.

Shouldn’t the men of science be the first ones to understand that we are all ultimately human?

Physicians all over the world believe in upholding the Hippocratic Oath which states that,

“I will apply measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.”

Denying or delaying someone’s treatment because of their gender is wrong by any ethical, social, professional or religious standard.

How can someone who has diligently studied the anatomy of the human body believe in ‘differences’ between human beings?

A few weeks ago, a video of another member of the transgender community in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) surfaced on social media. A young girl, Paroo, was crying because the local banquet hall denied a community celebration of her birthday. She expressed a death wish because of the discrimination she was facing.

Even in the US, the transgender community has to deal with prejudice. I have several transgender patients and most of them are supported by their families and communities but not all; some of them are rejected by their families and friends. In the past few weeks, I had two patients who came out to their parents as transgender. Their confessions were not welcomed. One patient’s father wrote on social media that he would prefer a dead child to a transgender. These cases remind me that there is a long way to go before we can achieve equality among all human beings.

I remember vividly how effeminate guys were bullied in my school. Even during medical college, they were victims of verbal abuse and vulgar jokes because they acted and looked different from others. Derogatory terms like “khussra”, “hijra” and “chakka” were used to address them. Not conforming to society’s gender ideals became a curse for them. But still they are in a better position than the members of the transgender community who are marginalised because they challenge society’s norms.

Unfortunately, most of them end up in the profession of singing and dancing, while some become prostitutes. In addition to that, most of them are rejected by their immediate family members and only find refuge in the prostitution communities. Being a part of these communities provides them protection but shuns them from acquiring mainstream social positions. The current reality for gender minorities in Pakistan is to live under constant fear of discrimination, abuse, and bullying. In short, they are denied the basic human rights of happiness and health.

Step by step, things are changing. Certain individuals are forcing society to open its doors to the transgender community. In a very commendable move, the National College of Arts employed a transgender person, Bubbly, in its cafeteria. Bubbly is a guru for a few dozen transgender community members and helps them get meaningful jobs.

Ideally, we should be talking about legal and constitutional equal rights for the transgender community in Pakistan, but even simple tolerance and protection would be a good short-term goal to achieve. I would like to see a Pakistan where a person is known and respected for his or her social actions and behaviour, not judged by his or her gender.

Hassan Majeed (MD)

Hassan Majeed MD

The author is working as a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, NY. He is a marathon runner and his interests include art, culture, travel, gender, human rights, mental health, and education. He tweets @HassanMajeedMD (twitter.com/HassanMajeedMD)

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