Two Pakistani women were killed in a strict Gulf Kingdom last week: 35 year old Amna from Mingora, and 26 year old Meeno from Peshawar. They were allegedly tied up, put in sacks, and tortured to death. Their crime was to be transgender, and to be in the Kingdom despite a ban on their entry because of who they were meant death for these two women.
Last year, Alisha, a trans woman, was shot and died in Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital. Staff wouldn’t admit her to a ward, other patients and attendants mocked and ridiculed her and her friends. She lay in a stretcher outside a toilet and eventually died in a private room, at the tender age of 25. Whose heart wouldn’t break at this story? But we harden our hearts and march on, oblivious of the hurdles transgender men and women must surmount just to be treated like human beings.
According to this op-ed by Kamal Siddiqui, conditions for gender-fluid people are pretty terrible in Pakistan too. The country has enacted some progressive laws, allowing them to obtain NIC cards under a “third” gender identity, but our attitudes towards trans people are still backward, if not downright sadistic. It’s as if the community exists only for our entertainment; if they dare aspire to being anything more than jokes and freaks — if they aspire to being human, with all that entails — then they deserve to be punished, humiliated, and eliminated.
What were they doing in a country like that, people will ask, when they knew the laws were so strict, that they had been banned from entering the country? Well, we can only imagine: they were there to earn money, just like the rest of the Pakistanis who go live in there. And they went to earn in the only way they probably knew how, given how miserable opportunities for being anything other than performers and dancers are in the country of their origin. I can’t imagine them becoming doctors and engineers here. Can you?
A foreign country has the right to decide who can enter and who should stay out. That’s their business. But two Pakistani citizens have been killed and our government should at least see that their bodies are brought back to Pakistan for a decent funeral. Their loved ones have the right to mourn them. Pretending that they had nothing to do with us is heaping cruelty upon cruelty. We manage to do that even for drug dealers and drug traffickers executed in far-off lands. Can’t we manage to find the courage to do that for two trans women whose only crime was to be different?
And there are still 22 of them in jail, out of the original 35 that were arrested. Is the government doing anything to help them come back?
The silence is deafening me.