A Pakistani province has allocated nearly $2m for transgenders after a series of violent attacks, and officials say the money will be used to provide training and support for the vulnerable community.
The funds were announced this week in budget plans for Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
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“The main purpose is to make them contributory members of the society while earning a livelihood for themselves,” provincial finance minister Muzaffar Sayed told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.
He said the government would also provide them with loans.
“We want them to have alternate sources of income, we will also financially support them in establishing small businesses,” he said.
While Mushtaq Ghani, provincial minister for information, said transgenders will soon get free healthcare as well as separate rooms in hospitals.
The plan also includes free vocational training, skills development and textbooks, and will secure employment opportunities in the future, Ghani added.
Such vocational centres for transgenders are already functional in Pakistan’s central Punjab and southern Sindh provinces, but it would be the first of its kind in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The move came after a spate of recent attacks against transgenders in the province, culminating in last month’s killing of an activist known as Alesha.
Hundreds of transgenders later rallied in Peshawar and demanded protection.
“At least 45 transgenders have so far been killed in the past two years,” said Farzana Jan, president of the “Shemale” association in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that up to 50,000 transgenders live in the province.
In conservative Muslim Pakistan, where sexual relations outside marriage are taboo and homosexuality is illegal, transgender dancers and musicians often perform at weddings and birth celebrations. They are treated as sex objects and often become the victims of violent assault.
When the Supreme Court in 2009 recognised them as a “third gender”, ordering they be issued with separate identity cards, it was hailed as a landmark decision in a nation battling human rights abuses and chronic violence.