A court in Peshawar, in the war-torn North-West province, has granted bail to a couple, including “a transvestite” (as described in local media, and as ‘eunuchs’ by the BBC), charged with ‘attempting same sex marriage’.
Forty-three others, including 11 “transvestites”, charged with participating in a function allegedly organised for the marriage of the two prime accused, had been earlier also granted bail by the court.
The accused have denied the ‘marriage’ charge and said that police raided a birthday party. Police claim that a ‘marriage ceremony’ was in progress. The accused counsel has said that police ‘cooked up’ the issue to settle personal scores with one of the accused, Malik Iqbal, and had overstepped its authority by raiding a private place.
The counsel argued that a few days earlier another case was registered against Mr Iqbal regarding possession of a Kalashnikov gun. He added that in that case ‘an altercation had taken place’ between Mr Iqbal and the police and the latter had told Iqbal that they would ‘teach him a lesson’.
“We were having a birthday party, but police arrested us. We had no intention of getting married,” Mr Iqbal told AFP.
The bail hearing was attended a large number of “transvestites” led by Almas Bobi.
Bobi featured in a Pakistani TV talk show ‘Point Blank’ May 27, generally regarded as covering Hijra issues without bias, talking about the Peshawar arrests.
Bobi said their community – known as Hijras in South Asian culture – has long been suffering at the hands of not just authorities but also the general population. Bobi alleged that the police often commit rape in police stations. And since they are not given an equal status in society, they cannot call anyone for help.
Writing for The Guardian, Mustafa Qadri said:
It should be no surprise that Tuesday’s arrest took place in a working-class neighbourhood of Peshawar. In Pakistan, the rich are generally free to do as they like. Although there are few recorded members of the transgender community among the elite, there is a vibrant if muted community of middle- and upper-class gay Pakistanis and one of the country’s most popular talkshows is hosted by a drag queen.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court last year declared Hijaras entitled to ‘protection guaranteed under Article four (rights of individuals to be dealt with in accordance of law) and Article nine (security of person) of the Constitution’. It ordered a census of transvestites in Pakistan that was carried out by the Social Welfare Department, as it considers whether to grant ‘third gender’ status’.
In April a report was released documenting cases of violent treatment meted out to Hijras by the police and other state agencies. They are forced to live by begging, dancing and prostitution. The report comprises interviews of the victims / survivors, police officials involved, community elders, neighbours of the “transvestites” and lawyers. In March IGLHRC released a report documenting violence against LBT people in Asia including Pakistan.
Last year a Pakistani female-to-male transsexual asylum seeker case in the UK was won in court when Judge Mark Ockelton QC indicated that he had “real difficulty” in understanding why the Home Office immigration authorities were still defending their decision despite the “strong evidence” in the asylum seeker’s favour.
After taking further instructions, lawyers representing Home Secretary Alan Johnson conceded that X, who is in his late 30s and lives with a transsexual in south-east London, did have what amounted to a fresh claim for asylum that should be considered.