A hijra, or transgender woman, is standing for election in Pakistan and campaigning for equal rights.
‘It is not our destiny to merely dance for others and hold begging bowls. We have a life to live,’ said Sanam Fakir, electoral candidate in the central Pakistan town of Sukkur, to AFP.
The elections in mid-May will be the first time Pakistan’s estimated 500,000 hijras (sometimes referred to as ‘eunuchs’) can vote and stand for election.
Hijras have a long history in South Asia and are invited to perform blessings by dancing at weddings. Many South Asians also believe Hijras can curse them with bad luck, so give them money when they beg on the streets. Some hijras also try to publicly humiliate people by shouting sexual insults if they refuse them money.
AFP reports that Sukkur is dominated by the Pakistan People’s Party, who currently rule the country, and there is only a small transgender community in the town, so Fakir’s chances of winning a seat are slim.
‘I know it is very difficult to defeat them, but everyone should contribute for the betterment of society,’ said Fakir, who runs a charity which educates transgender women with computer skills.
‘We are getting educated now,’ Fakir added. ‘People used to make fun of us, but now they have started to respect us.’
Watch an interview with Pakistani transgender woman Rani Mukherjee by documentary filmmaker Myriam Raja here: