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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 01
Pakistani Trans activist runs for office
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Pakistani Trans activist runs for office

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Pakistani Trans activist Shahana Abbas Shani announced on December 30 that she will run as a independent candidate for the Punjab provincial assembly, the equivalent of a state legislative seat in the U.S.

Shani is president of the so-called 'She-male [hijra] Association.'

She told the Express Tribune newspaper that she made the decision to run because she wants to address problems faced by the Pakistani Trans community.

Although Trans people have won legal recognition, their needs have been ignored by Pakistani society, she said.

'There is no other way for us to be heard and now when the Supreme Court of Pakistan has allowed us to have an identity card, we will fight for our rights,' Shani said.

In 2009, Pakistan's Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling recognizing Trans people as a 'third gender,' and in November 2011 the court ordered that Trans people should be registered as voters, but activists charge that government officials have not followed through with practical measures to put these rulings into effect.

The term hijra is used throughout South Asia to describe men who present female or ambiguous gender characteristics. In Pakistan, hijra is often translated into English as 'third gender' or 'she-male.'

Bindiya Rana, of Gender Interactive Alliance, told the Tribune Express that no hijra ID cards have been given out, in spite of the court order to do so.

As a result, many Transgender Pakistanis have no identification documents at all, which caused severe problems for them during the recent devastating flooding, particularly in Sindh province.

According to Rana, this occurs because 'a lot of Transgenders get separated from their parents from a very young age and are unable to get their parents' ID cards and other supporting documents which are required to get an ID.'

Shani's electoral platform includes a demand that the Punjab assembly establish a number of reserved seats for Trans people. Under Pakistan's constitution, women and ethnic minorities already have seats reserved for them in provincial assemblies.

'We [hijras] are also citizens of Pakistan,' Shani said, and deserve the same rights as other citizens.

Shani promised to fight for all those people who have been deprived of their rights and had faced discrimination.

Earlier, the She-male Association joined the protest in Multan against the November 26 NATO attack which resulted in the deaths of Pakistani soldiers. Protesters burned Barack Obama in effigy and chanted slogans against the U.S.

'We will fight at our country's borders if the forces need us,' Shani said.

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