Civic engagement is the prerequisite of the democratic system. Even though Pakistan is a democratic country, the civic engagement of its citizens is unsatisfactory. It specifically implies the participation of women and transgenders. The men are comparably more aware, engaged, and have a greater ratio of documented identity however their participation is not engendered by a sense of responsibility rather by the association to political parties. Women are likely less aware than men and in the worst cases hardly do they have documented identities which they acquire later once they get married, unfortunately not to pay their share in civic duties. Even in some fortunate cases where they have their identities, their civic participation is influenced by the decision of the men in their families. Like a large part of the world, transgenders, an abandoned section or a grave fault of nature, having less or no education, are the most deprived and civically least aware in Pakistan as well.
Recognised as a third gender since 2009 and counted for the first time in 2017, transgenders constitute 10,418 people in a country of 207 million, though charities put the figure closer to 500,000. Reports show that only 0.0002 percent of total registered voters are transgender. This minor fraction might not have any impact on the representative politics of the country however it has serious implications for the community itself. 10,000 or 500,000 are numbers for us which we casually regard as minority with respect to other genders but for the community even the minor number is its strength. Greater participation means political say which ensures a contribution in decision making which means related policies or legislation which can ameliorate the condition of the community as whole.
Having said that, the more important argument might be that is it the right time to talk about the said community’s inclusion when in Pakistan all a woman(the second less empowered gender) needs is Tandoor ki Roti on a late-come-first-get basis, when a large chunk of male population which is educated yet deeply inspired by the culture are not in favor of Women Rights’ Movements carried out in the country.
Unapologetically It is. There are three prompting facts that contain the gesture of right time: first, Pakistan has an act titled Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, passed in 2018. The Act recognizes their identity, prohibits against discrimination and harassment, promotes inclusion in society, and protects their rights including right to vote and right to hold public offices. Nonetheless the implementation is not so pleasing; second, thirteen candidates from the said community contested in the General Elections of 2018 for National and Provincial assemblies thus making it historical for Pakistan; third, the country’s first transgender police officer Reem Sharif has not only appointed in the office but works remarkably well in the field. Miss Sharif has helped 16 trans in Punjab in her first 2 months of duty.
Apparently it all seems well then where is the problem? It lies at the lower level. In the families they are born to. In the alternative families they are handed over to. In the whispering neighbourhoods. Sadly, In their rarity too. Their deteriorating condition is triggered by social prejudice and economic injustice against them.
The solution lies in their social inclusion. They must be accepted just as another gender instead of a borrowed identity. It is understood that their psyche is inclined towards attaining one of the two identities however accepting and creating room in the social setup for their own kind of identity which people are familiar with, is not a bad idea at all. Including them properly as a third gender at all the official and legal forums, for education and employment, more importantly in their identification will augment their inclusion and normalize the concept of third gender. For example, introducing a third box for the gender section in documentation or promoting the access of a segregated third kind of bathrooms at public places will be a promising start.
The solution lies in their economic independence and usefulness. Family is an institution which defines the attitude towards an individual's ascribed status which along with other factors is determined by gender as well. An adult person is resourceful by his paid labour and his ability to reproduce. We are not concerned with the later one. However, Monetizing the birth of a trans person will be an incentive to turn the family's negative attitude to a positive one. It is not as apathetic as it sounds. The state paying for the birth, for education, for teaching vocational skills and making them able enough to become financially independent and resourceful to the family, is indeed an encouraging factor.
Notwithstanding, It is not as simple as it is stated here. People associate fear, curse, and defame with the said gender. Such an attitude is as appalling as it is irrational. People must understand that this is nature’s another manifestation. Their psyche and the appearance is the exact way nature wants it to be. The fact that they are ‘created’ is solely enough to claim that they own the world as the other two genders do.
Many organizations such as UNDP Pakistan is pulling off programs promoting transgender persons inclusion in Civic Education and employment through various bootcamps and assignments engaging the youth of the country. The silver lining is that the youth is eager and more than interested to approach them and talk about them through diverse channels. The government of Pakistan must take the advantage and address the regressing condition of the community's civic engagement by attracting youth and introducing related campaigns and programs. That time is not far when Pakistan will have informed transgender voters and more courageous and dedicated trans persons in the office like Miss Shareef.