Police cruelly ‘laugh’ at trans people bravely protesting against rising violence

Transphobia is a hangover of British colonialism, and we need to address it

Police officers in Pakistan cruelly laughed at trans and cisgender activists protecting against a surge in transphobic violence that has seized the country.

On Friday (13 August), more than 100 demonstrators gathered outside the National Press Club in Islamabad, the country’s capital, to bring greater attention to the surge – and local law enforcement’s sluggish response to deal with it, Planet Transgender reported.

“Violation of transgender rights,” one protester’s sign read at the protesters were joined by members of the Awami Workers Party, a left-wing party.

But officers sent to shield protesters from brutality instead derided them, alleged Nayyab Ali, the founder of Transgender Rights Consultants Pakistan, one of the first trans rights groups registered to the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan, on Twitter.

“This police force should be used for the protection of citizens,” she wrote.

“They are laughing at the trans, cis peaceful protestors who are at Press club to show solidarity.”

At least six trans people have been murdered in Pakistan since 20 November 2020, which is the annual Trans Day of Remembrance, according to an initiative of the same name that monitors killings of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people across the globe.

Only last month was a trans person brutally shot to death as she danced at a party in Sari Behlol, Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Ali said.

The rising homicide rate comes after Pakistan’s government extended free healthcare to trans citizens for the first time. Prime minister Imran Khan said that his government was “taking responsibility” for the relentless discrimination they face.

Pakistan recognised trans people in 2012, adding a third gender option to forms and official documents.

The 2017 national census counted Pakistan’s trans population for the first time, recording 10,418 trans people in a population of about 207 million, though charities estimate there are at least 500,000 trans people.

In Punjab, the eastern state’s government sought to curb such violence and stigma by rolling out a historic “bill of protection” to act as a firewall last year.

“The government is taking all possible steps for a peaceful environment across the province,” Ejaz Alam Augustine, Punjab’s human rights minister, said at the time.