LAHORE-In a groundbreaking study aimed at shedding light on the critical issue of transgender inclusion in law enforcement, Advocate Maneha Tariq has underscored the urgent need for recruiting transgender individuals into police departments across Pakistan. In collaboration with the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), the studyinvolved in-depth consultations with gender experts, human rights advocates, members of the transgender community and police officers, whodelved into the challenges and potential solutions for promoting inclusivity in the police force.
Primary research for the study, which was collected through key informant interviews, surveys, and a Focused Group Discussion (FGD), uncovers a complex web of biases, fears, and societal attitudes that have hindered the integration of transgender individuals not only into the police ranks, but society in general.Furthermore, the findings reveal that while strides have been made in creating legal protections for transgender rights, achieving a cultural shift within police departments remains a significant challenge.
The study employed purposive and convenience sampling techniques, selecting participants from across Pakistan and from various Police Departments. Of the police officers who participated in the study, a substantial 40% reported their interactions with transgender individuals as adversarial or unfavorable in nature.Similarly of the transgenders that were surveyed, 67% categorized their interaction with police officers as ‘bad or very bad.’ Furthermore, 46% of the transgenders reported that they view the police as a symbol of fear, 21% thought police officers are rude and only 25% reported their perception of the police being polite/helpful. In this regard, a notable observation from the study is that mere legal reforms are insufficient to change deep-seated societal attitudes. Gender experts and advocates who participated in the interviewsand the FGD asserted that education and awareness campaigns targeting grassroots issues faced by transgender individuals are crucial for nurturing a more inclusive environment.
One poignant example brought to light is the experience of a transgender woman who faced discrimination from her cisgender colleagues while training at a police training college. This instance highlights the need for an equitable and inclusive approach when devising policies for transgender recruitment. The author of the study argues that recruitment strategies should not only focus on numbers but also emphasize the creation of a supportive and conducive work environment. Moreover, the recruitment criteria for transgenders should be revised to consider their health and educational circumstances.
Affirmative action emerges as a key recommendation, emphasizing the need to revise the legal framework to explicitly include transgender rights. By implementing comprehensive legislation, survivor centric initiatives and engaging with transgender communities, society can move towards a more equitable future. The study highlights that successful implementation of these affirmative action measures can foster a top-down effect on society, leading to a more inclusive and diverse environment.
The Tahaffuz Markaz initiative started by the Islamabad Police for example,was said to have provided different types of services to more than 2000 transgender persons since its beginning. The services included issuance of character certificates, copies of FIR, crime reports, registration of temporary tenants record, lost and found reports and other faculties. The experts stated that counseling to more than 300 transgender persons had also been provided. However, the initiative has not been adequately funded and did not have legal backing. Therefore, its impact and continuity has been limited. The heart of the studylies in an analysis of surveys conducted among police officers and transgender individuals. A representative sample of police officers revealed a mix of attitudes towards transgender inclusion. While senior officers held more progressive views, constables and head constables exhibited a lack of desire to workwith transgender colleagues. The survey emphasizes on the necessity for sensitization and training programs, particularly among those who have frequent interactions with transgender individuals. Comparatively, the survey among transgender respondents revealed the dire social and economic conditions they face. High levels of unemployment, poverty, and lack of access to education are among the significant barriers to employment that they encounter.