Peshawar: As Arzu raises slogans, holding up a placard demanding better treatment of the transgender community in the face of rising incidents of extortion, harassment and violence, her body language betray little confidence in the impact of yet another protest.
“After every case of abduction, killing or other violence we protest, it gets fun-size coverage in media and that’s all-it ends there,” says Arzu. “Every day, transgender in KP have to go through this but the government keeps turning a blind eye to the situation.”
This last Tuesday, the transgender community in Peshawar was out yet again on roads along with social activists, protesting in front of Peshawar Press Club. The protest, not first of its kind from the transgender community for their rights, took place after some members of transgender community in Gulbahar received threats from extortionists. They approached the Gulbahar police station to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) but officials only registered their complaint that doesn’t necessarily mean police action against the extortionists.
To protest against the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police for their uncooperative behavior, a procession of transgender marched towards Gulbahar police station and held a sit-in there. Police, said Arzu, ignored them and their complaints most of the time, not taking them seriously. She said their lives were getting harder each passing day as the the tall claims of government to improve their lot came to nothing.
“It has become a routine that such cases take place in KP,” said Qamar Naseem, a social activist in Peshawar.
Naseem, Coordinator for Blue Veins, a non-government organisation working on gender issues, told Truth Tracker that the graveness of situation can be determined from the fact more than 54 transgender had been killed in KP since 2015. These were only the reported cases and the actual number of killings could be high, he added.
Taimur Kamal, Coordinator for the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network, blamed the government for showing negligence to problems that the transgender community goes through every day.
“The PTI-led provincial government has made countless promises to help the transgender community but has not fulfilled them,” said Kamal.
In budget 2016-17, government had allocated Rs. 200 million for the welfare of transgender community but all the amount lapsed as not a single penny could be spent till the end of budget.
Similarly, Kamal said, the government had promised issuance of Sehat Insaf Cards (health insurance), dedicated medical wards in hospitals, vocational skills and provision of residential flats for transgender community.
“All these promises remain just that as not a single of them was kept,” said Kamal.
He said the human rights organisations after consultation with other stakeholders devised a ‘Transgender Protection Policy’ and submitted it to the Social Welfare department in June 2017 but it was yet to be approved.
From conversation with the transgender and social rights activists, it appears that they had not much hope regarding any positive development in the situation of transgender.
Officials in the Social Welfare Department however blamed NGOs working for the transgender and the community themselves for all the “misconduct.”
Tariq Safi, a senior planning officer at Social Welfare Department said that the main hurdle in implementation of every government plan for the transgender community was that transgender were not registering themselves with the department. NGOs were also not helping them (the transgender) in this regard, he added.
He further said that KP government had allocated Rs.18 million for the welfare of transgender in the fiscal year of 2017-18. As for lapsing/ non-usage of the allocated funds for the community is concerned, he said, “It was due to allocation of the funds by government in hurry.”
The Transgender Protection Policy after passing through different phases was now pending with Law Department, after which it will be sent to cabinet for final approval, he added.
“Things might get better if transgender and NGOs working for them cooperated with government for the welfare of this community,” said Safi
The SHO of Gulbahar Police Station was not available for comments regarding the incident against which the transgender were protesting.