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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

Pakistani police force plans quota for transgender recruits

Plan in Sindh province is part of wider efforts to promote inclusion of marginalised community

Police in Pakistan's Sindh province fire tear gas during a protest in Karachi on March 28, 2019. AFP
Police in Pakistan's Sindh province fire tear gas during a protest in Karachi on March 28, 2019. AFP

Police in Pakistan's Sindh province will set quotas for recruiting transgender constables, officials have said.

The move to hire what is often a persecuted minority will promote "the respect of transgender people", the force said.

The quota in the province of 48 million people, which includes the huge port city of Karachi, could be as high as 5 per cent, reports say.

But police spokesman Sohail Jokhio told The National levels were still under discussion.

“The chief police officer of the province has announced he will include transgender people in police jobs," Mr Jokhio said.

"The measure will now be discussed before the rules and recruitment committees for further proceedings.”

Pakistan last year passed a law hailed by Amnesty as “one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the world when it comes to transgender rights”.

While the country has a reputation for social conservatism, there is also a long South Asian tradition of a “khawaja siras” community, identifying as neither male or female, which is accepted but marginalised.

The law allows people to identify their own gender in government documents and bans harassment.

But in reality, transgender people still face widespread violence and discrimination, with many being forced into the sex trade or begging.

Pakistan's 2017 census counted the transgender community for the first time, but found only a little more than 10,000 in a country of 210 million.

Campaigners estimate the total is closer to 500,000, but people were reluctant to identify themselves as transgender because of social stigma.

Transgender competitors are for the first time allowed to take part in the historic Punjab Games this week. The annual sporting event in Pakistan's most populous province has registered 80 transgender entrants.

The athletes will compete in their own category in village-style games including a tug of war and sack race, but organisers hope to widen participation in future.

“The idea is to give a message that we are trying as part of the government to mainstream them, or at least start,” said Nadeem Mahbub, sports secretary in the Punjab government.

Mr Mahbub said that while this year was only a token presence, he expected it would form a basis for transgender competitors in more sports next year.

The Punjab Games feature more than 30 modern and Olympic sports for competitors across the province.

"This will be helpful in bringing transgenders to become part of mainstream and expose their skills,” said Saima Butt, a transgender activist who helped to recruit competitors.

Sahil Sana, 30, a competitor who works at a beauty parlour, said: “This inclusion in sports will help in giving understanding that we are part of this society and can have such equal opportunities.”

Transgender rights became prominent in Pakistan in 2009 when the Supreme Court ruled transgender people could obtain national identity cards as a “third sex”.

Updated: April 5, 2019 04:07 AM

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