by Leander Milbrecht
In Pakistan, two trans women were shot dead and another seriously injured within two days. The community mourns – and lives in fear. The crimes once again draw attention to how marginalised transsexual people are in the South Asian country.
Gul Panra died on 9 September in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar. According to the organisation Trans Action Pakistan, she was shot six times at close range and died on her way to hospital. Together with another Trans woman, she was attacked at a wedding – the other victim, Chahat, survived seriously injured.
The two women had been hired to perform at the wedding – a common tradition in Pakistan. They were already about to leave the wedding party when suddenly unknown persons appeared and opened fire on the two of them. The perpetrators were able to flee.
Cantt’s police chief, Hassan Jahangir Wattoo, said the motive was not yet clear and the case was still under investigation. No arrests have yet been made. However, the surviving victim, Chahat, had been able to provide information on the perpetrators that might allow identification.
13-year-old shoots his sister
Just one day later, another murder of a trans woman in Pakistan shook the community. She too returned from a dance performance – only to be shot at home by her brother. He is only 13 years old. The crime took place in Swabi, a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwest Pakistan.
The police officer in charge, Muhammad Fahim, said the woman was returning from a dance party in Rawalpindi, a town south of Islamabad, when her brother Muhammad Hammad opened fire and killed her. Hammad has been arrested and is in police custody. According to police, the brother was angry and upset because his sister had danced at the party. It is said to have been a crime of passion, not a planned murder. The police have promised a full investigation into her death and have assured other transsexuals in the region of safety.
Horror in Pakistan’s queer community
The crimes unleashed anger, grief and compassion in Pakistan. Shortly after the first murder, the hashtag #JusticeforGulPanra trended on Twitter.
A Trans activist Gul Panra shot dead in Peshawar.
She got shot 6 times and was rushed to the hospital where she lost her life.
Where basic rights and security is absent for not only girls but boys too ,trans community can only dream for a brighter safe future.#JusticeforGulPanra
— Saad The Sad. (@saadghaffar2000) September 8, 2020
Trans Action Pakistan posted a video on Facebook of Chahat and Gul Panra asking for protection shortly before their attack. They wrote:
“There is no safety for us. COVID-19 made us more vuln[e]rable but we cant only blame it. We were neve[r] safe even before COVID. We wonder if the Police De[pa]rtment even conside[r]s us Human.”
State discrimination in Pakistan
Many activists* made comparisons with other acts of violence against women in Pakistan, including the recent arrest of the trans-activist Julie Khan on 10 August on alleged trumped-up charges. Although her legal gender status was not ‘male’, Khan was held in the men’s section of Adiala prison.
Members and allies of the Pakistani transgender community had demonstrated in the capital Islamabad on 16 August. They were of the opinion that Khan’s arrest was unlawful and had been carried out without a warrant. In addition, Khan had been violently ill-treated by police officers. On 17 August, one day after the protests, Kahn was released on bail.
The Pakistani government announced in January that health insurance would be free for transgender people. But although Pakistan legally recognises the third gender, the country’s transgender community faces widespread violence, discrimination and abuse. Activists are doing their best to reduce prejudice and create understanding – only three weeks ago, Trans Pride Pakistan took place.
In the Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2020, Pakistan ranked 117th – together with other countries including Rwanda, Indonesia and Kenya.
- luis-galvez-trauer-schleier: By: Luis Galvez / Unsplash / CC0
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