Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pakistan: Third Gender Legalized

Eunuchs in Karachi on World Aids Day 1 Dec 2009
BBC News on April 27, 2011; Hijras in Pakistan
One has to wonder - in a good way - how a country with a record of appalling human rights abuses against women can, at the same time, legally create a third gender category for eunuchs, or hijras. Faced with discrimination, hijras are generally shunned by polite society, working as entertainers, beggars or prostitutes. Now, along with with their newly recognized gender category, Pakistan's government has specifically hired hijras as tax collectors. Going to door-to-door in upscale neighborhoods, they shame the populace into giving up past due funds. 

I welcome this news, applaud Pakistan's Supreme Court and hope this news will help raise the status of hijras in society. However, I cannot help but ask, is their usefulness to the nation's economic welfare a driving force behind this legal acceptance of their socially constructed gender category? Will women, subject to hijab by this conservative Muslim state, ignored with regularity by the legal system when raped or abused, as in the case of Mukhataran Mai, now find themselves socially and economically beneath not only men in society, but transgendered individuals as well? All the more reason to support financial, educational and legal initiatives aimed at empowering women so they can gain personal prestige and wealth. Thus, they too could have the opportunity to perhaps, over time, raise their economic and perhaps social status in society's eyes.  

Click here for the BBC News video report from April 27, 2011.

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