Human Rights and Transgender People in Pakistan

There is no known grassroots activism among lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and
transgender (zenana) communities in Pakistan. This lack of activism, the silences around
sexualit(ies), and deeply closeted status of most gays and lesbians in Pakistan (many of whom
live double lives to avoid revealing their sexual orientation) makes it difficult to accurately
assess their living conditions and human rights situation. Anecdotal information from
Pakistani gay people who have left the country describes fear, secrecy, isolation, suicides,
forced marriage, family and community pressure to conform to heterosexual norms.
Against this background, a landmark case involving transgender rights is currently unfolding
in Pakistan. Nighat Saeed Khan, director of ASR Resource Centre in Lahore, Pakistan notes
that, “Transgender individuals in Pakistan have typically faced a myriad of dangers from
police, family, community, and religious authorities, and had to leave the country.”2 The
current case challenges this status quo. It marks an attempt by a female-to-male transgender
man and his wife to have their marriage recognized, an outcome that is predicated on the
court’s recognition of the right to transgender identity.