Pakistani authorities must prevent further attacks on transgender people

The shooting of a transgender activist one month ago, and a recent wave of attacks against the transgender community in Pakistan, are extremely concerning, according to global civil society alliance CIVICUS. We urge the authorities in Pakistan to organise prompt and impartial investigations into the attacks, and make sure the perpetrators are brought to justice without delay. 

According to reports, transgender activist Gul Panra was killed by an unidentified gunman in Peshawar's Tehkal area on 8 September. Another transgender person, Tariq alias Chahat, was injured in the same attack and was brought to Khyber Teaching Hospital for treatment. The shooting occurred after a group of transgender people performed at a wedding function and were preparing to leave. A local police official said four suspects had been detained in connection with the shooting, but no further progress has been reported.

In another incident, a transgender woman was allegedly gunned down by her younger brother in Swabi city on 12 September. Saad Khan had gone to Rawalpindi and Islamabad where she participated in several dance performances, which her family opposed. She was shot when she returned.  On 6 October, another transgender person was seriously injured after being shot on the way home to Shahmansoor after performing in a music concernt in Buner.  

“The authorities must take serious steps to investigate these brutal attacks and killings. Ensuring justice and accountability for the violence perpetrated against  transgender people in Pakistan will send a signal that such acts will not be tolerated, and that all citizens - no matter what their gender identity - will be protected,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher.

The attacks prompted transgender activists to hold protests in Karachi, Lahore, Mardan and other cities in Pakistan. On 15 September, members of the trans community in Peshwar organised a demonstration outside the Peshawar Press Club expressing serious concern over an increase in violence against the community, and calling on the government to take action to ensure their protection. 

Protesters believe the government does not take their security seriously. According to Pakistan’s Transgender Association, at least 73 members of the transgender community have been killed since 2015. The group also states that the police regularly fail to document threats made against transgender people.  

“On a daily basis we face stigma and discrimination, as well as experience harassment and exclusion from society. The recent spate of violence is very disturbing for the entire transgender community - many are afraid to venture out due to fear of attacks. We demand justice for the victims of these attacks, and call on the Pakistani authorities to protect the transgender community in accordance with the law,” said Saro Imran, a transgender activist running a community-based organisation in Pakistan.

The rights of transgender people are protected under Pakistani law. In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court called on all provincial governments to recognise the rights of transgender people. The judgment specifically called for more communication with the trans community and better coordination on cases reported to the police. In 2018, after a long struggle waged by the Pakistani transgender community alongside civil society, Pakistan’s senate passed the  Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act which explicitly prohibits discrimination and harassment of trans people, and protects their right to access heathcare and public spaces.

Despite this, implementation of the law is weak and transgender people in Pakistan still face high levels of discrimination and violence. Many are excluded from society and face challenges accessing the public health care system, education, employment and other institutions. Also, according to human rights groups, the authorities abuse transgender women and threaten them when they seek justice.

Civic space in Pakistan is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

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ABOUT CIVICUS

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members worldwide.

The CIVICUS Monitor is an online platform that tracks civic freedoms, including the freedoms of association, assembly and expression, in 196 countries. 

 

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