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Surge in Trans People Running for Office in Pakistan


In a landmark year for trans rights in South Asia, transgender lawmakers might become a reality.

Less than a decade after Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled in favor of a third, transgender sex option citizens can list on their national identification cards, there is a surge in transgender politicians running for office in the nation.

Thirteen transgender candidates have filed to run for various positions in today's election in Pakistan, although some have now dropped out, reports Asian Correspondent. Court victories giving trans people the right to vote, inherit, and own assets as well as be acknowledged in the population census paved the way for their candidacy.

On May 9 of this year the Supreme Court ruling was expanded by Parliament via the Transgender Persons Act, which recognized Pakistani citizens' right to self-identify as male, female, or genderqueer and enabled them to have their proper identity registered on all documents, including passports, drivers' licenses, and educational certificates.

Among the potential officeholders is Nadeem Kashish (pictured above), a 35-year-old trans woman who is running for a seat in the national assembly against Shahid Abbasi, the former prime minister of Pakistan, and ex-cricket legend Imran Khan.

Trans people have long been a part of Pakistani culture; families often invite transgender performers, who they call hijra, to sing, dance, and bestow blessings on newlywed couples. Transphobic attitudes developed and were written into law, however, when the South Asian country was colonized by the U.K.

Even with recent victories, transgender people face immense challenges in Pakistan. Media outlets report that 58 trans individuals were murdered in the past three years in the nation's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region alone. Some of the victims were well-known trans activists.

Among the 13 trans candidates, some have dropped out of their races in the wake of public harassment and financial troubles.

However, the trend of transgender individuals feeling empowered to run for office is global. In 2017, more trans politicians were elected to office than in any other year in U.S. history. Virginia's Danica Roem became the first openly trans candidate to be seated in a state legislature in the United States. This year, 40 trans candidates are running for office at all levels of government in the upcoming U.S. midterm election, at least three of whom are seeking to be the first openly trans representative in Congress, Reuters reports.

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