Tag Archives: Western Subcontinent

Pakistan Feature | Trans Women

The Fitful Progress of the Movement for Pakistani Trans Lives

Source: CGTN YouTube

By way of Pakistan’s landmark 2017 census, some 10,000 transgender Pakistanis have become officially visible in the eyes of the government, though community organizers say the number is likely much larger. Illiteracy, poverty, disenfranchisement, trafficking, threats to sexual health, and the dangers of unregulated sex work plague Pakistan’s trans women (khawaja siras, a reclaimed term in the trans community), but the recent securing of legal protections have given hope to a community where precarity reigns.

While communities of trans women have provided kinship and security where mainstream society has offered a mix of scorn and fetish, hierarchical systems within the communities have layered additional vulnerabilities upon threats already faced. The women have organized and built security-focused civil groups, and the last decade has seen a number of victories including census recognition, a third-gender option on ID cards, limited economic investments, and technological and political tools for accountability in law enforcement. Some hardline conservatives have become unlikely allies as trans women are seen among some Islamic sects as holy, though they have stopped short of supporting partnership rights. Recent international media coverage has highlighted recent gains as well as ongoing insecurity for Pakistan’s increasingly visible trans community.


Pakistan’s Transgender Women, Long Marginalized, Mobilize For Rights” (NPR | January 2018)

Tabooed transgender community still facing discrimination but to be protected in Pakistan” (Xinhua | January 2018)

New App TransMuhafiz Puts Pakistani Transphobic Offenders in the Spotlight” (Planet Transgender | January 2018)


Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret (Clover Filmsvia Real Stories/YouTube | December 2016)

Somebody (TriumF Mediavia YouTube | September 2017)


TransAction Pakistan

Afghanistan Feature | Women

The Invasive “Virginity Tests” of Afghanistan

Despite its condemnation by international medical experts as scientifically unsound and official promises to ban the procedure, healthcare and judicial systems in Afghanistan have continued to rely on abusive assessments of sexual activity in women accused or suspected of extramarital sex. The potential social catastrophe that could result from a positive result has led to the development of a black market of so-called hymen reconstruction, which has led to further health insecurity for women who undergo the procedure. Even the administration of the test can bring social shame to those subjected to it, leading to poor outcomes in education and employment as well as a contracting social network. Afghanistan is far from the only country in which the tests continues, and globalized efforts to end the gender-discriminatory practice have encountered mixed success in changing deeply rooted cultural norms.


The shame of Afghanistan’s virginity tests” (BBC News | December 2017)

Despite Ban, Invasive Virginity Tests Remain Prevalent in Afghanistan” (The New York Times | January 2017)


Here’s Everything You Need To Know About ‘Virginity Tests’” (BuzzFeed News | November 2017)

Afghanistan News | Shiite Muslim

Suicide bombing attack on Shia cultural center in Kabul kills dozens
  • A single suicide bomber infiltrated the Tabian Social and Culture Centre in Kabul’s Dasht-e Barchi neighborhood, leaving more than 40 dead and at least 80 injured.
  • The attack took place as a crowd of more than 100 gathered to mark the 38th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series of more than a dozen since 2016 targeting Shiites that have left more than 700 dead.

Suicide bombers kill dozens at Shi’ite center in Afghan capital” (Reuters | December 2017)

ISIS suicide bombing in Kabul kills dozens” (CNN | December 2017)

Why is ‘Islamic State’ targeting Shiites in Afghanistan?” (Deutsche Welle | December 2017)

Pakistan News | Christian

Suicide bombers kill 9 in attack on church in southwestern Pakistan
  • At least 9 were killed and 56 wounded following an attack by two suicide bombers on Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province.
  • Nearly 400 had been in attendance for the pre-Christmas service, and authorities say the toll could have been much higher had the attackers reached the sanctuary.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, a part of ongoing targeting of the 2 million Pakistani Christians in the country by both IS and the Pakistani Taliban.

9 killed in suicide attack on Quetta’s Bethel Memorial Methodist Church” (Dawn.com | December 2017)

Nine killed in terrorist attack on church in Quetta” (Geo News | December 2017)

Suicide bombers attack church in Pakistan’s Quetta before Christmas, killing nine” (Reuters | December 2017)

Afghanistan News | Religious Scholars

Religious scholars in Afghanistan one of Taliban’s most frequent targets
  • Over the last 16 years of war in the country, hundreds and perhaps thousands of ulema have been killed, although official numbers are difficult to track.
  • Taliban members surveil sermons to monitor adherence to Taliban interpretations of sharia, both courting and threatening scholars to buttress their power across the nation’s provinces.
  • Religious leaders note that the targeting of scholars is driven by anxiety over scholars’ influence on communities, a desire for ideological control, and the suppression of criticism.

Taliban Target: Scholars of Islam” (The New York Times | May 2017)

Religious scholar shot dead in eastern Afghanistan” (Andalou Agency | May 2017)

(Image Credit: Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

Pakistan Feature | Women & Girls

The Endless Labors of Pakistan’s Debt-Bound Women

A form of indentured servitude persists in the vast fields of Pakistan’s poorest regions, where families labor on lands to pay off debts whose balance never seems to decrease. But while men may find their “payments” limited to hard labor, women and girls find themselves vulnerable not only to physical labor, but to domestic, sexual, and even marital labor forced under conditions of extreme duress.  Religious minorities are particularly vulnerable, with an estimated 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls trafficked as a result of these debts, sold off to predatory landowners and forced to convert to Islam. The Associated Press examines the conditions faced by the more than 2 million Pakistanis living in what human rights organizations have called modern-day slavery and the particular indignities to which women and girls are subjected.

A Pakistani girl is snatched away, payment for a family debt” (The Associated Press)

(Image Credit: B.K. Bangash/AP)

Pakistan Feature | Transwomen

The Subversive Visibility of Pakistan’s First Trans Model

Activist and model Kami Sid was the subject of a recent photo shoot in collaboration with photographer Haseeb M. Siddiqi, stylist Waqar J.Khan, and makeup artist Nighat Misbah, making her debut as the first out trans model in Pakistan. The photographs stand in stark contrast to the other forms of visibility that has kept the Pakistani trans community in the news in recent years, including sexual assaults and homicides. BuzzFeed features photos from the shoot and a look at the struggle to combat transphobia in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s First Trans Model Did An Absolutely Stunning Fashion Photoshoot” (BuzzFeed)

Additional coverage:
Pakistan’s first transgender model makes debut with stunning photoshoot” (The Express Tribune)
Kami Sid becomes Pakistan’s first transgender model and her debut photoshoot is gorgeous” (Mic)

(Image Credit: Muhammad Haseeb Siddiqui, via BuzzFeed)