Farzana Jan, a ray of hope for Pakistan’s transgender community

In a traditional society like that of the Pashtuns in Pakistan, the transgender community is deeply vulnerable, subject to abuse and violent attacks. From Peshawar, we meet a ray of sunshine.


Kamis, 01 Des 2016 17:43 WIB


Mudassar Shah

Farzana Jan and some of Peshawar's transgender community (Mudassar Shah)

Farzana Jan and some of Peshawar's transgender community (Mudassar Shah)

In a traditional society like that of the Pashtuns in Pakistan, the transgender community is deeply vulnerable, subject to abuse and violent attacks.

Decades ago transgender people in the area would become dancers and entertainers, but terrorism and militancy has destroyed that lifestyle.

From the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Mudassar Shah finds out what life is like for the marginalised group, and one ray of light among them.

Transcript - 

This long, narrow, dirt street in Peshawar leads to a small, three-story building.

On the ground floor children are busy with their Islamic lessons.

And on the floor above, a young transgender woman, Sawera, is receiving guidance from 36-year-old Farzana Jan. 

Sawera doesn’t have a second name – most transgender people don’t have last names after being disowned by the parents.

“People make fun of me and say I am infected with AIDS, others say I have cancer,” Sawera tole me. 

“My friends, who I share my grief with, also laugh at me. I don’t have anyone to share my agony with except Farzana. She always supports me and ensures that I spend everything on my treatment.”

Transgender people, like Sawera, who are cast aside by their loved ones, often end up at Farzana Jan’s flat in Peshawar. For protection, the entrance of her home is surrounded by CCV cameras.

To support the community Farzana provides shelter in her home, financial support, counselling and organises protests to demand the rights of transgender people. 

Farzana is president of the transgender association of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, a province that is deeply affected by terrorism.

Where those in the transgender community are very vulnerable.

“The Pakistan police treat us like terrorists,” Farzana said. 

“The police drag transgender people on the roads and tear their clothes off. The government has the high claim of saying it protects transgender people under the law, but instead they treat us badly.” 

Farzana left home when she was 13 and hasn’t seen her family for 23 years.

She started to live with the transgender community, who she now considers family.

There are 6,000 transgender people in Peshawar district alone. And in the last year and a half, 46 members of the community have been killed, and more than 300 harassed. There are reports of rape too.

According to Farzana, “one specific group wants to silence our voices for fighting for the rights of transgenders.” 

“Alishah, one transgender woman used to be with me all the time, and then she was threatened with her life. She was killed only because she took a stand with me for the rights of our community,” said Farzana.

Babli is 31, tall and with a fair complexion, has lived with Farzana for the last two months. 

She escaped a difficult situation before she met Farzana.

“Some gangsters forced me to have illicit sexual relations with them and they threatened me to leave the area if I did not agree. They openly threatened me, said they would even kill me if I didn’t,” Babli revealed.

Farzana is a ray of hope for the marginalised community. 

Some close to her say they don’t know how they would have survived without her.

Back at her apartment, Farzana Jan is looking at a video on her mobile phone. It shows a transgender person being beaten up and extorted for money.

The video went viral all over Pakistan this week.

When that happened Farzana called several government officials to secure their support for the victim and soon the police took action. 

“Transgender people were not considered human beings even three or four years ago,” stated Farzana.

“But now people take a stand with us whenever they know about our problems and issues.”

She continued, “I use social media as a tool for sharing the miseries of my community while I also motivate the community to take a stand for their rights. One person can’t bring big changes unless we all stand united.”

Farzana believes that step by step things can slowly change.


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