Pakistan: General election to see first transgender candidates run

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

For the first time transgender people will be able to run for office in Pakistan’s general elections with their gender identity recognised, and, so far, two trans women have applied to stand for positions in their local constituencies.

The 11 May elections will be the first in which transgender people are able to vote and run for office with their gender identity officially recognised, following a 2011 ruling by the country’s Supreme Court that Pakistani people who do not consider themselves to be either male or female should be allowed to choose an alternative sex when they apply for their national identity cards.

Sanam Fakir, a 32-year-old trans woman from Sukkur, announced in February that she wanted to run, and would campaign for equality for members of the trans community.

“It is not our destiny to merely dance for others and hold begging bowls. We have a life to live,” said Ms Fakir.

It has now emerged that she will be joined in the elections by fellow trans woman Bindiya Rana, the founder of trans rights lobby group Gender Interactive Alliance, who is standing for a seat in Karachi

“In the last five years, we have only seen politicians fighting, criticising each other and making false promises. But I promise today, that transgenders from all across Pakistan will participate in the up-coming elections and bring a change,” she said.

Ms Rana said she was moved to take up politics because of her experiences following the death of a trans woman in her community.

“In 2004, a member of our community died and our elders arranged for her body to be sent to her hometown in Punjab which I accompanied. I was shocked at the callous behaviour of the authorities including those at the airport and the police who made fun of my friend and me and asked me how she died and doing what,” she said.

Before the incident she said she “never really cared about the politics in the country. But now I feel the time has come for us common people to also stand up and contest the elections to break this mafia of land owners, businessmen and professional politicians.”