Pakistan’s Third Gender

South Asia has to be one of the most fascinating regions. Its vast varieties of cultures, languages and people create for one of the most diverse areas of the world of all time. My name is Sehar Malik. I am a 22 year old Pakistani-Canadian. I am very passionate about socio-political and economic issues in South Asia. Hence, the birth of Soch. Soch means to think or a thought in a variety of different South Asian languages. Here I shall post my thoughts on current socio-political issues in South Asia.

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Both my parents were born in Pakistan and with five trips back to the motherland since I was born, I can attest to the magnetism of Pakistan. The streets, the food, the people. One of the most fascinating, as well as the most heartbreaking stories to be told in Pakistan, and across most of South Asia, belong to the hijras, which can be translated into Eunuchs, or what most of South Asian theorists refer to it as “The Third Gender”.

The term itself hijra was associated with people who biologically were hermaphrodites , yet it encompasses those who consider themselves to be transgender or transsexual and even as far as to stretch it over to the male queer community. Hijra is also used as a demeaning term in South Asia, associated with a lack of manliness.

hero-original-1400426901Hijras in Pakistan carry with them a double-edged sword. Some believe that Hijras have mystical powers and both their blessing and their curse weigh heavily. For that reason alone, they are paid to attend to special occasions such as weddings and the welcoming home of a new baby. However, Hijras are subjugated to prostiturion as means to earn an income. Many hijras whose families disown them and they feel to be left out from society will join other hijras, usually in a brothel style system, with one madame to rule them all, and prostitutes.

However Pakistan has slowly, but surely seeing a change towards the attitudes surrounding hijras. Almas Bobby (who gained fame through the interview her name is hyperlinked to), the President of the Transgender Foundation of Pakistan, has been openly welcomed by parliment, who on her advice, have deemed the weddings of hijras to be in accordance with Islamic Sharia Law and identified as cisgender marriages. They also will be counted in the Pakistani Census as their own minority group. Documentaries, like “Kiss the Moon”, by Khalid Gill show a humanistic, empathetic and relatable side of the community.However, for the society of Pakistan to accept them without any negative connotations, or assumptions, will take a while for now.

VICE has both met hijras in India, as well as in Pakistan, and wrote about them.

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