After a decades’ long struggle for their rights, the transgender community in the country finally sees a ray of hope for welfare with their inclusion in the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) beneficiaries list.
Although many steps were taken during last few years for ensuring social inclusion and gender equality for the vulnerable transgender community, yet the recent initiative of making them a part of the biggest social protection program is another milestone towards providing them economic relief.
The decision of including transgenders in the BISP would not only make them eligible to register for Benazir Kafalat initiative providing quarterly assistance of Rs. 7,000 but enable them to get benefit from the other schemes also.
Nayyab Ali, Human Rights Defender and Transgender Rights Activist, termed the inclusion of transgenders in Benazir Kafalat program as an excellent step towards ensuring financial independence of this marginalized community.
“Transgender community had never been included in any of the social protection program at the government level in the past,” Nayyab said adding, but, this initiative will help us meet our financial needs to some extent.
She pointed out that there were number of challenges associated with this initiative including transparent registration process, to be addressed on priority basis to benefit the genuine community.
“Engaging transgender community member in the monitoring of registration process can pave way for smooth and transparent implementation of this program,” Nayyab Ali stated.
“On behalf of the whole community, I must appreciate the incumbent government for taking this much-needed relief measure at the time when the Transgender Act is under-threat”, she said.
Nayyab Ali also described this policy initiative, a step towards ensuring gender equality and equal citizen’s rights. “The time has come when the transgender community will not be considered as a marginalized section”.
Most often the transgenders are seen begging at busy roads and earning living by dancing at functions.
Sometimes they are also molested due to their economic compulsions and fall victims to exploitation and with commonly facing charges of adultery.
“We are happy with this initiative. At least, we may have some amount of money to survive,” said another Transgender Activist, Nadeem Kashish. “Our inclusion in the BISP network is a positive step. It will provide transgender community social safety and economic relief.”
She also emphasized to ensure transparency in adopting the procedure for selection of the beneficiaries. “The authorities must ensure that the benefits of this program should reach to the deserving and genuine transgenders”.
As the society used to see them with an eye of scorn, their inclusion in the government programs and job opportunities had been a far cry.
But, this recent decision has been seen as positive not only by the community but also the human rights activists in the country.
“Transgenders being a marginalized community are not integrated in the society and face lack of opportunities in getting education and learn skills for earning their livelihoods,” said prominent human rights activist, Farzana Bari. “Decision to include them in the social safety program is appreciable.”
She said their inclusion in Benazir Kafalat program would ensure their financial uplift as this decision also reflects the present government’s vision of providing equal opportunities to all the citizens.
Since the transgender community faces a lot of hurdles in securing jobs and other earning opportunities at homes, offices and other settlements, therefore there is dire need to provide them opportunities for dignified earnings.
“I would desire the government to move another step forward and provide them skill-based education to enhance their employability and ensure social integration,” Farzana Bari emphasized. “If we ensure it, then besides providing income support, we may make them self-sufficient over the time.”
Farzana Bari also termed the Transgender law passed in the recent past as a very progressive law and said, “it has improved Pakistan’s image internationally.”
Seeing from the perspective of human needs to survive socially and economically, this segment had often been a victim of sheer criticism instead of positive societal attitude for them helping them out to earn their bread and butter.
“As providing congenial atmosphere to all human beings in the country is deemed responsibility of the state, therefore approval of Transgender Policy can be considered as a landmark achievement of the present government,” remarked Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, Shazia Marri.
“Transgenders are also a part of our society like us and it is our shared responsibility to take care of them” she said.
Under the policy, transgenders have been asked to register for Benazir Kafalat program by first updating their gender in the CNIC from NADRA. After updating their CNIC, they can register at BISP Tehsil Offices. On successful registration, the applicant transgender will receive a payment message from 8171 number and get Rs. 7000 per quarter.
The step is appreciable although some quarters have concerns on certain clauses of the law. Therefore, it is direly needed to address these concerns as well, to make this law acceptable to all segments of the society ensuring same time that it is not misused by anybody to harm our religious and moral norms and benefits real transgenders.