Tuesday, 12 August 2014

More than just microfinance - How Pakistan’s largest Islamic Microfinance Institution supports one of the country’s most stigmatized communities

© Akhuwat 2014
Despite positive measures such as the landmark legal judgement in 2009 that granted transgender people  their own gender category on national identification cards and the Supreme Court recommending that they benefit from affirmative action for civil service jobs, transgender people remain among the most disadvantaged groups in Pakistan.  Often referred to as hijras or khwaja siras (the latter is the term used to describe the transgender courtesans who danced in the courts of the Mughal Emperors during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) they routinely face discrimination in health, housing, education and employment as well as ridicule, intimidation and the threat of physical violence. Most khwaja siras are forced to live at the margins of society and earn an income from performing at ceremonies such as weddings and births; extorting payment by disrupting people’s work and most commonly begging - they are, for example, a relatively common sight at traffic lights in many large Pakistani cities such as Karachi and Lahore.