The Largely Ignored Third Gender: Issues Faced by Hermaphrodites in Pakistan
It is a fact that every person living in the world is considered a human no matter male or female, on the basis of which every person qualifies to enjoy all the human rights such as right to live, education, respect etc. In Pakistani society, people have the mentality that a human can either be male or female and there cannot be a human of any other sex. But the reality is quite different; there is also another sex in the world which is known as hermaphrodite or the third sex. According to Androutsos (2006), hermaphrodites are those people who contain both sex organs i.e. of male and female in the same body. (p.214). It is a harsh reality that being third sex humans, hermaphrodites are facing countless difficulties in order to survive and be considered as humans. In Pakistan they are generally known as Hijras, khowajasara and Murat.
The main cause of their problems is that in Pakistan, people do not even believe that there can be a person who has third sex, on the account of which hermaphrodites are not even considered as human. When hermaphrodites are not even considered as human, they are not provided with most rights. Although, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2007), Article 2 “Every single human being is entitled to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. (p.2). There are so many fundamental rights from which hermaphrodites of Pakistan are restricted.
Firstly, till 2013 they were not allowed to have the national Identity card. As a result of this, they were not able to enjoy any of the rights of a citizen as well as there is no statistical records of hermaphrodite population present in Pakistan, as they were not registered in NADRA. Here the right of nationality was not delivered to them. Secondly, they are not provided with the right of social security.
It has been seen a number of times that at public places common people and even the police harm and torture hermaphrodites on many terms like physically, verbally, sexually and emotionally. In addition to this due to their sexual orientation they are not socially accepted and their family mostly prefers to hand them over to the hermaphrodite community. According to Abdullah. (2012) “Hijras as children are many a times socially excluded by their own family members, who consider them as a cause of disgrace and stigmatization for the whole family” (p.3). As an outcome of this, these people face resilient isolation from society. Conversely, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2007) in Article 27 indicates that every individual has a right to enjoy and take part in cultural activities of the community (p.10).
However still they are not socially accepted. They are also deprived from getting education due to social stigmatization. Hermaphrodites encounter number of troubles in terms of earning as they are illiterate and are communally not accepted; therefore they do not get any proper mean of employment. However, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2007) in Article 23 says that every individual has a right to work, regardless of their sexual orientation. (p.8). Hermaphrodites also come across with strong humiliation very frequently; people make fun of them and degrade them and violate their right of respect. Furthermore, there are very few numbers of hospitals and clinics present which offer medical and health care facilities to hermaphrodites without any discrimination which makes them dispossessed with the basic health care facilities.
As an impact of continuously receiving and facing the above mention cruel behavior from society starting from childhood, most of the hermaphrodites decide to get into the immoral ways of living and earning. For instance as they do not get any respectful way of earning due to their sexual orientation and illiteracy, they choose prostitution as their profession, they sell sex to generate income. From the broader perspective, prostitution itself has so many harmful and perilous consequences in society like transmission of STIs and STDs in population.
Likewise, not providing them with equal opportunities to get educated will also increase the illiteracy rate of the country. Moreover, as hermaphrodites are considered bizarre due to their sexual orientation, appearance, dressing as well as their behavior, they often become victim of verbal, sexual and physical abuse by people. These constant unkind and rebuttal behaviors from people as well as no ways of getting respect, no means of deferential earning and living, and incessant fights with their own family and people sometimes becomes the reason behind their bad and revengeful conduct towards society. In this way, not only hermaphrodites suffer but also the people around them suffer.
It’s a kind of a vicious cycle of hurting and destroying the essence of humanity. The pain of this type of living is that much intense that they actually celebrate the death even of their fellows because they believe death is a gift from the almighty God, and meeting with death will end their struggles and hardships on this earth. Abdullah(2012). (p.6).
As to resolve these problems, it is essential to work on the provision of basic human rights to hermaphrodites in the form of presentation of bills on federal and national levels in Pakistan. This is also recommended to start a campaign to change the absurd attitude and behavior of people towards hermaphrodites with the help of media and on-going awareness sessions etc. In all the private and public sectors there should be a reservation of some % of seats for employments and education for hermaphrodites. Furthermore all the stake holders including religious and community leaders can perform their part by correcting the misconceptions and misinterpretations people hold related to hermaphrodites.
* Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (2007). United Nations Department of Public Information. Retrieved from:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/60UDHR/bookleten.pdf
* Androutsos, G. (2006). Historical note Hermaphroditism in Greek and Roman antiquity. HORMONES, 5(3):214-217. Retrieved from:http://www.hormones.gr/pdf/Hermaphroditism in Greek.pdf
* Abdullah, M., Basharat, Z., Kamal, B., Sattar, N., Hassan, Z., Diljan, A., &Shafqat, A. (2012). Is social exclusion pushing the Pakistani Hijras (Transgenders) towards commercial sex work? A qualitative study. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 12(32), 3-3. Retrieved from: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1472-698X-12-32.pdf
Keywords/tag: hermaphrodite, hijra, khuwajasira, third sex.
Category: Public Health, Community health
About the Author: Heena Akber Ali is a BScN student at Aga Khan University, Pakistan. She is a two year scholarship holder and very inquisitive regarding medical research as well as promoting the importance of psychosexual health of a person. Her research regarding tender coconut water as a temporary substitute for blood plasma in emergency was published and presented in the 8th Health Sciences Research Assembly of Aga Khan University. Heena is also very inclined to start her own social business for which she attended the National University of Singapore entrepreneurship program, Singapore, in July 2015. She can be reached at [email protected]
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