- Title: Transgender community in Pakistan holds rare public party
- Date: 24th January 2017
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Urdu) TRANSGENDER PERSON, CHOCOLATE, SAYING: "With the money collected, we start some sort of business or some work, and try to earn a living. We also clear our debts to others."
- Embargoed: 7th February 2017 12:39
- Keywords: Pakistan LGBT transgender society sexual orientation
- Location: PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN
- City: PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN
- Country: Pakistan
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA00560FXNIF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Police stood guard on Sunday (January 22) outside a birthday venue of one of the members of transgender community in the conservative Pakistani city of Peshawar.
Despite recent advances in their struggle for equal rights, transgender people in Pakistan are still shunned by mainstream society and are often pressured into begging, prostitution or dancing to earn a living.
Rarely are they allowed to hold public events with authorities refusing to grant permission or ordering police raids of venues where transgender events are held.
"Our parties are mostly not allowed. Paro's (a member of transgender community) party was stopped halfway; after that Shabnam's and Preeti's (other members of the community) parties were cancelled, although we had received permission," said Farzana Jan, a leader of Trans Action, a group campaigning for greater protection of transgender people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.
But the party held for Shakeela, 40 was different. Although the organisers had not secured written permission, there was no official opposition to the event and police was ordered to provide security, frisking anyone who entered the hall and blocking those without invitations.
In Pakistan, a transgender person's birthday is not the anniversary of their birth, but a celebration of life hosted in the middle-age, with guests expected to bring gifts of money to enable the person to start a small business or a project.
Each member of the community gets only one "birthday party" in their lifetime.
"Like you, people have weddings, we have a party in which we do the same things that you do in weddings, etc. We all get together - friends, fraternity brothers - and we all give money to the person for whom the party is being held. Some people give Rs. 5,000 (US $ 47.70), some give Rs. 10,000 (US $ 95.41)," a member of the community nicknamed Chocolate said.
"With the money collected, we start some sort of business or some work, and try to earn a living. We also repay any debts that we may owe to others," Chocolate added.
Although activists say there is a long way to go before the transgender community attains full legal rights and freedom from persecution, in recent years, there has been some legal recognition of transgender rights.
Earlier this month, a top court ruled that Pakistan would count transgender people for the first time when it surveys its population in March this year.
In 2012, Pakistan's Supreme Court declared equal rights for transgender citizens, including the right to inherit property and assets, preceded a year earlier by the right to vote.
There are no official figures on the number of transgender people living in Pakistan but advocacy group Trans Action estimates there are at least 500,000 in the country with a population of 190 million.
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