A grassroots community organisation in Pakistan is distributing food and medical supplies to trans people left vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pakistan Transgender Coalition for Change is working with charities to support the community in a country where trans people are especially marginalised, and has already helped more than 400 people.
Organiser Haseena Khan said that most trans people live below the poverty line, with sex work, dancing, and begging the only means of income available.
“They are most likely to be impacted by the economic crisis,” Khan told Pink Advocate.
“More than 80% of transgender persons in Pakistan are not registered with the registration authority, and are therefore left out of the government financial assistance scheme and similarly ignored by humanitarian organisations providing food and medical supplies.”
‘Unable to pay their rent’
Khan said that many trans people in Pakistan have health issues such as HIV, and now have no income to manage their medical expenses.
“Transgender people here also face housing and accommodation challenges and are unable to pay their rent because of closure of public gatherings and lockdown,” she said.
Trans people have resorted to selling belongings such as jewellery and phones to pay their rent, or been forced to leave their homes, some able to stay with friends for short periods.
The trans and wider LGBTIQ community faces widespread discrimination and violence in Pakistan.
Despite Pakistan’s vibrant trans or third gender culture and community, and relatively new anti-discrimination laws, trans people are often not accepted and remain vulnerable to transphobic abuse and mistreatment.
The Pakistan Transgender Coalition for Change is working tirelessly to help the community despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and transphobia.
Khan said that members had faced death threats for actively supporting the trans community.
“Our transgender sisters Laila and Khushboo, despite the recent threats, are advocating with government to ensure transgender people are included in the government scheme,” she said.
“They are facing threats to their lives because of their activism, but they are still putting in their energy and are playing their role, that’s why we need to particularly acknowledge their work.
“The situation is so bad, but we are trying our best to [help] our transgender community.”
The food and supplies distributed so far have come from donations from individual members of the Pakistan Transgender Coalition for Change.
The activist group is additionally working to improve government protections for the trans community.
“Due to increased attacks and increased threats to transgender activists, our organisation is also working for advocacy with government to formulate a policy protection mechanism for the transgender community,” said Khan.
Update: While organisations in Pakistan are not allowed to use most crowdfunding websites, a campaign has now been set up to allow secure online donations.