WDF stands in solidarity with the khawaja sira community

We stand in solidarity with all transgender people in Pakistan, and unequivocally condemn
the dangerous and ignorant proposals made by the Senate Standing Committee on Human
Rights in relation to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.

(Solidarity Statement, 1 March 2023): Women Democratic Front strongly condemns the
dangerous and ignorant proposals made by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights in
relation to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018. The amendments proposed to
the Act by the Committee are regressive and take us many steps backwards as a country that has a
sizable khwaja sira population, stigmatised to this day.
While there is still a long way to go in terms of treating our khwaja sira people as equal citizens,
with their own histories and lived experiences, Pakistan has been one of the few countries in the
world that has been heralded as taking the necessary steps to recognise the rights of the khwaja
siras to restore their honoured place in our society. The new proposed terminology of renaming the
Act from “transgender” to “khunsa” and “intersex” is a violent erasure of a proud community with a
history much older than Pakistan itself.
The term that the community has been using for itself for centuries is khwaja sira. Self-identification
and dignity is the right of every citizen, and to rob people of the right to even the name of their
community is a gross miscarriage of the law. Furthermore, in a globalised world, as citizens of a
country with international standing, the community accepts and uses the term “transgender” as an
umbrella term of common parlance.
This erasure is history repeating itself when the British came to our lands and erased the
indigenous identity of the community and criminalised their existence. The community has a
recorded history in South Asia spanning over centuries. The attempts by the right-wing to label
them “intersex”, a completely western way of understanding and interpreting gender diversity, is
cruel and a blatant disregard of our own history and culture.
Resultantly, the community is still struggling for legal and political rights in the contemporary era,
while being regularly subjected to casual violence. To make matters worse, the further ostracization
of this integral community of Pakistan only displays remnants of colonial hatred for the people of
this land.
This can be seen by the social media content generated by the ignorant, elitist and unqualified Maria
B, who is clearly uneducated on the matter, as well as unwilling to learn about transgender life and
culture, and yet is responsible for spreading disinformation leading to grave consequences.
Additionally, those who misuse both religion and medicine in their divisive politicking have most
recently, in the Standing Committee of the Senate, called for (1) terming khawaja sira as intersex,
Women Democratic Front
and (2) for subjecting transgender persons to undergo humiliating and invasive medical procedures
to prove their identity. This further exacerbates the lived experiences of community members, who
face the violent repercussions of this hate-mongering.
It bears alarm that two khwaja sira women, Mahnoor and Mishi Khan, have been killed and others
injured in assaults in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this year. Recently, Marvia Malik, Pakistan’s first
transgender news anchor, survived a near-death attack by gunmen. The false propaganda of hate
mongers has real-life, usually fatal, consequences. The disinformation they are spreading has led to
the increased harassment and vulnerability of transgender people across Pakistan. The rise in
violence against the khwaja sira community in Pakistan intensifies unabated and is fuelled by
bloodthirsty bigots seeking an easy target for nefarious and self-aggrandizing purposes at a crucial
political moment.
Instead of lending resources and heart to stop this violence, the government’s decision to indulge in
another form of violence against the community is highly condemnable. The government is
providing space to the bigots of this country, through this new amendment, to target and attack
such a vulnerable community by both legal and cultural means. It is only the second month of 2023,
and already right-wing propaganda has instigated deadly violence against 4 precious lives in the
khwaja sira community—such acts are clear examples of inhumanity at both state and societal
levels. In a country where empathy for khwaja siras has always been abysmally low, the ongoing
hate campaign and disinformation against transgender people in Pakistan needs to be quelled
immediately. Instead, working-class people from the community are particularly vulnerable to this
targeted onslaught from the right-wing, which is now focusing on a new gendered target to
Putting an end to transphobia in Pakistan is the need of the hour. The transgender community must
be awarded with all fundamental rights, and any step to violate their rights should incur legal
consequences. The Government of Pakistan has been at the forefront to protect the rights of
transgender people as the ratification of ‘Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act; in 2018
was a landmark achievement. This is a complete Act and any false amendment would only worsen
the already precarious existence of thousands within the khwaja sira community in Pakistan,
particularly those without any access to socio-economic protection.
The proposed amendment by the Senate Committee on Human Rights is highly condemnable and a
clear example of inhuman act at all levels. Any such amendment in the existing Act which negates
and violates the rights of transgender people should be considered as an anomaly to the spirit of the
Act itself. Therefore, the Women Democratic Front (WDF) strongly condemns this proposed
amendment based on falsities, and demands its immediate revocation.