Pakistan province allocates $2 million for skill development of transgenders

A Pakistani province has allocated nearly $2 million for transgenders after a series of violent attacks. The money will be used to provide training and support for the vulnerable community. The funds were announced this week in budget plans for Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

”The main purpose is to make them contributory members of the society while earning a livelihood for themselves,” provincial finance minister Muzaffar Sayed said. Sayed said 200 million rupees ($2 million) have been allocated ”for the capacity building and skill development of the vulnerable groups”. The move came after a spate of recent attacks against transgenders in the province, culminating in last month’s killing of an activist known as Alesha, who was shot multiple times and succumbed to her injuries in hospital in Peshawar.

Hundreds of transgenders later rallied in Peshawar and demanded protection. ”At least 45 transgenders have so far been killed in the past two years,” said Farzana Jan, president of the ”Shemale” association in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that up to 50,000 transgenders live in the province. In conservative Muslim Pakistan, where sexual relations outside marriage are taboo and homosexuality is illegal, transgender dancers and musicians often perform at weddings and birth celebrations.

When the Supreme Court in 2009 recognized them as a ”third gender”, ordering they be issued with separate identity cards, it was hailed as a landmark decision in a nation battling enormous human rights abuses and chronic violence. Sayed said the government would also provide them with loans. ”We want them to have alternate sources of income, we will also financially support them in establishing small business,” he said.

The plan also included free vocational training, skills development, and text books, and will secure employment opportunities in the future, Ghani added. Such vocational centers for transgenders are already functional in Pakistan’s central Punjab and southern Sindh provinces, but it would be the first of its kind in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Activist, Taimur Kamal, welcomed the move but said the government needs to do more for the protection and support of transgenders. Fellow activist Qamar Naseem called the decision a ”victory”. ”People think transgenders are only for sex and dance, they even don’t consider them as human beings,” Naseem said.

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