Slain Pak transgender activist gets public funeral

  • Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times, Islamabad
  • Updated: May 26, 2016 20:04 IST
Blogger Noman Ansari wrote dignity for the transgender community in Pakistan "is almost impossible to find. (Representational image) (AFP File)

The city of Peshawar witnessed its first ever public funeral for a member of the transgender community on Thursday.

Alesha, rights activist and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Trans Action Alliance coordinator, was buried after she succumbed to injuries at a public hospital following an attack in which she was shot six times.

She died after delays in treatment at a public hospital, where doctors debated whether she would be admitted as a man or a woman and who would treat her.

While in critical condition at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, Alesha was kept waiting for an hour while the authorities debated on whether she belonged in the women or men’s ward, a local media report said. Finally, after protests from the patients, she was shifted to the men’s ward, where she was treated in front of the lavatory, as far away from other patients as possible.

Some reports suggest the attack on her was a hate crime, while others claim it was the act of a criminal gang that exploits the community to shoot pornographic videos.

The funeral was held at the residence of a social activist. Islamic scholars were  consulted by the prayer leader on whether the prayer should be offered or not. The activist was told that since Alesha was a Muslim, there was no harm in offering her funeral prayers. "If we can offer the prayers of murderers and anti-social elements, why can we not offer prayer for a person who was transgender," asked one activist. During the prayers, Alesha was referred to as a man.

Local media reported that a large number of transgender community members attended the funeral. “I feel like Alesha had to leave this world to bring a change and raise a voice against injustice,” said Farzana,  president of Shemale Association of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, adding, “I appreciate [the participation] and thank all the people who gathered for the funeral and arranged a coffin and grave.”

Alesha was laid to rest in Rehman Baba Graveyard, in Durrani Pur area on the outskirts of the city.

Blogger Noman Ansari wrote dignity for the transgender community in Pakistan "is almost impossible to find." From birth to their death bed, they are ostracised as if they are the bearers of some invisible disease, he wrote in his blog, which was widely shared. Forced to live with their own communities, forced to take menial jobs or to beg on the streets, forced to put up with mental and physical abuse, forced to deal with sexual harassment, abuse and rape, from their fellow citizens or even those tasked with protecting them, the transgender people of Pakistan are constantly swimming against the tidal wave, "and we ignore their plight, because pretending they are invisible is easy," he said.

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