Transgender sweetness beats Muslim intolerance

By day they wear normal workers’ uniforms. At night they dress up in lipstick, stilettos and bright clothes. This is daily life for thousands of transvestites and transgender people in Pakistan. But they’re a minority that conservative Muslims find it hard to tolerate. The rest of Pakistan’s population, however, seek them out for their own private amusement. And not just for sexual purposes, as internationally known photojournalist and Pulitzer prize winner Muhammed Muheisen shows in his extraordinary reportage.

Hijras, as transvestites and transgender people are known in the Punjabi language, are a popular attraction at weddings and parties. This is mainly on account of their unusual and fascinating dances, that begin at sunset and last all night. Many crossdressers engage in this activity, which is better paid than many other professions.

The belief in various regions of the country that they bring good luck also plays a role in this work. At births and happy occasions, they are often called to the blessing. Sometime they turn up to ceremonies of their own accord and, in any case, it’s obligatory to make offerings for their service.

So while the public at large appreciates the company of hijra, the law has also made progress on their behalf. In 2009, the Pakistani parliament passed a law recognising the third gender. Three years later, a ruling by the Supreme Court of Pakistan moved in the same direction. So today, transvestites or transgender people can declare themselves so even in official documents.

This is a considerable step forward for those living in a country with a strong conservative Islamic presence and so close to the Taliban in Afghanistan. And, while Peshawar is anything but a kingdom of tolerance, it appears to provide members of the third gender more rights than many European capitals.

by Anna Madia
Source – West