In Pakistan, there are various methods to define the transgender identity. Khwaja Sira is a term that refers to all gender-variant identities, also known as the “third gender,” and is used to describe individuals who identify with a gender other than the one they are biologically born with.
There is little to no talk about transgender people and their lives because topics like sexual orientation and gender identity are typically regarded as taboo. Even though the third gender is now legally acknowledged, transgender and intersex people still struggle to achieve a respectable social standing. A kid who identifies as transgender is frequently shunned by their families and adopted by remote but close-knit hijra communities because many people believe that they are a curse from God.
One of the few nations, Pakistan, acknowledges the “third gender” in its constitution. Therefore, this Khwaja Siras community is made up of intersex people, transgender men, and transgender women. It also includes men who think they were born with “a woman’s soul” and women whose assigned sex was male but who identify more as female.
Zanaya Chaudhary, a Lahore-based transgender person. She is a member of a transgender household. She struggled tirelessly to finish her education. Along with her studies, she worked for various NGOs, advocated for transgender rights, and served as an inspiration to others. She currently manages projects for transgender rights.
“A child’s parents will defend and fight for him if he is assaulted outside. For us, however it’s different. Although the government is like a mother to everyone, neither society nor the government is on our side.” This is what transgender woman and advocate for her community’s rights Zanaya Chaudhry says.
In a plea she filed in the Lahore High Court last year, Zanaya claimed that a private production company in Karachi targeted the transgender community in the release of the trailer for their new movie, “Dum Mastam.” The word “Khusra” is used for them in it.
The Lahore High Court, on the application, had issued a notice to the Ministry of Broadcasting and Information and the Ministry of Minority Affairs and Human Rights.
Through attorney Ahmed Pansota, Zanaya submitted the petition. In this case, the court had been requested to order the respondents to take legal action against anyone who violated the laws already established protecting transgender people’s fundamental rights.
Barrister Ahmed Pansota said that when the trailer of the Dum Mastam movie released, there was a dialogue in it, “khusron ko kab bulana hai, kya wo umeed se hain? Wo nachany ky liye nahi rakhy huay?”
He says that the conversation had been extremely insulting to transgender people. According to decisions of the Pakistani Supreme Court, he claimed, for the transgender people the word “Khusra” cannot be used.
Transgender persons cannot be treated in a disrespectful manner, according to barrister Ahmad Pansota. They now have rights and are acknowledged as a third gender.
According to him, the dialogue in concern was a significant violation of fundamental human rights under Articles 4, 9, 14, and 25A of the Constitution, and as a result, he demanded that the film be released without it.
The parties were given 15 days to answer to Justice Shahid Waheed of the Lahore High Court.
Zanaya Chaudhry addressed us and stated, “We feel that by using the name ‘Khusra,’ we are being abused in some way. In fact, the majority of individuals in our society have become accustomed to the idea that our community’s rights are being violated and that violence against us is normal.”
“If everything is directed towards the media, how can you hope for a better society?” asks Zanaya in reference to the purpose of the media, which is to inform.
Zanaya claims that she and her community speak out against this way of thinking and go forward to improve society, but they are ignored. In the trailer of movie it was asked “wo jo khusray bulaye hain, wo kya umeed se hai?” and it can be heard in full if you watch the movie clip and pay attention to the entire statement.
According to Zanaya, even if we wanted to, we couldn’t have children because of the way the system is set up by the Allah. The goal of this discourse is to make us aware of our flaws. Even before this, we were named “Hi Khusre” in a show, and by clapping were subjected to laughter.
Which words are suitable?
While speaking with us, renowned journalist and author Akhtar Baloch, who is the author of a book on transgender, “Third Gender,” said that the community should be known by the name Khawaja sira, which is what they prefer to be called.
According to Akhtar Baloch, they are referred to as “khadra faqir” in Sindh, where the word “faqir” is not used to describe a beggar but rather someone who is old, elderly, or dignified.
I have written a book about this community, he claimed, and they love it when I refer to them as Faqir Sahib. They accept a khadra faqir as well and don’t feel offended by it. They are also known by names like Mukhanis, Hejra, Murat, and Khawaja sira.
However, they believe that the term “Khusra” is derogatory because it is no longer relevant and useful. Khawaja sira is hence the name that fits it the best.
“We see prior to that the word “Khusra” is frequently used as a derogatory term for any human being,” explains Zanaya Chaudhry. Additionally, this word has been changed in official writing.
For us, the deserving term “transgender person” or “khawaja sira” should be used. The lesson here is to always inquire how to address us while speaking to us. The issue is that we are referred to as males to females or females to males, thus it is preferable to inquire.
How can anything be changed?
“Children here feel threatened by our community,” Zanaya added. The parents say to their kids that they will take you away if the kids notice us at the signal. They create beggars. They argue that now is the moment for parents to inform their kids about the existence of the third gender or sexual orientation. The education system needs to be changed in order to do this.
Universities currently offer us opportunities.
Zanaya Chaudhry, who was speaking to us, said: “Punjab’s education department is making a wonderful attempt by opening schools for transgender students, but I believe that these schools shouldn’t be segregated. In every private or public school that offers it, transgender students should be given an opportunity.
However, if you look at the larger picture, the Punjab government’s initiative is an excellent one, and if we keep proceeding cautiously, things will improve for us in the future.
- Muzakar ky liye ‘he’ hai, muanas ky liye ‘she’
- Magar Hazrat-e-mukhanas (neither he nor she) hain, na he mai na she mai