Being Transgender in Pakistan

Most transgender people in Pakistan live in poverty and can often be found begging on the streets. When they do find work, the transgender women often can be found performing at weddings or at baby showers because they are believed to be good luck. However, many transgender women do sex work.

In Pakistan, transgender women are often called Hijras. Hijira is an umbrella term, which includes intersex people, transgender, homosexuals, people who cross dress, and bisexuals (Is social exclusion pushing the Pakistani Hijras towards commercial sex work, 2012). Many Hijras, specifically transgender women, engage in sex work. This work is very dangerous, as they don’t use protection in almost all cases and HIV and many STDs are very popular amongst sex workers. Many of these transgender people have lost contact from their original families and then turn to sex work because they have no alternatives.

Three transgender women in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Even for transgender people who are from more privileged backgrounds, public restrooms still remain a concern. Transgender people will often face criticism for using the bathrooms of their identified genders. A transgender Pakistani man, Daanish recalls a similar experience that he had at an airport bathroom. He had said he had used the men’s room and when he got back out the janitor started shouting at him and arguing about his gender identity (Officially Recognized But Publicly Shamed. 2015).   Events like this are typical and often transgender people will avoid public restrooms because of this.

There has been some work done to help transgender people achieve further recognition, policy wise. In 2009 Pakistan’s Supreme Court recognized a “third gender” for their identification cards. Pakistan has one of the most secure identification systems in the world. In addition, 2013 was the first election in which transgender people were allowed to vote (Officially Recognized But Publicly Shamed: Transgender Life in Pakistan. 2015). However transgender people are not recognized as Pakistani citizens otherwise and out transgender people cannot have their own passport. While transgender women are gaining recognition, transgender men go unnoticed.

While a third gender has been created for both, no transgender men have registered under it. They are nearly invisible in Pakistan. While there has been some beneficial changes policy wise, there is still prejudice against transgender people in Pakistan.


Works Cited

Baral, S. D., Poteat, T., Strömdahl, S., Wirtz, A. L., Guadamuz, T. E., & Beyrer, C. (2013). Worldwide burden of HIV in transgender women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet infectious diseases13(3), 214-222.

Is social exclusion pushing the Pakistani Hijras (Transgenders) towards commercial sex work? a qualitative study. (n.d.). Retrieved April 07, 2016, from

Transgenders_towards_commercial_sex_work_a_qualitative_study Pakistan’s Transgenders In A Category Of Their Own. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from]

Transgender and proud – The Express Tribune. (2015). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from




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