Murdered Pakistani transgender activist buried as a man

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Alesha, Pakistan’s well-known transgender rights activist and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Trans Action Alliance coordinator, was buried  on Thursday in a first-ever public funeral of its kind in Peshawar, after she succumbed to bullet injuries.  She was shot six times by unidentified assailants a day before. She was buried as a man, although she referred to herself as a woman.

She died because of delays in treatment at a public hospital, where doctors  deliberately debated whether she should  be admitted as a man or a woman and who would treat her. While in critical condition at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, Alesha was kept waiting as hospital officials discussed on whether she belonged in the women or men’s ward, a local media report said. Finally, after protests from the patients, she was shifted to the men’s ward, where she was kept in front of the public washroom, as far away from other patients as possible.

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Some reports suggest the attack on her was a hate crime, while others claim it was the act of a criminal gang that exploited the community to shoot pornographic videos.

Islamic scholars were  consulted on whether funeral prayers should be offered or not. Since Alesha was a declared Muslim, the clerics said there was no harm in offering  prayers. However, she should be buried as a man, they said.  “If we can offer the prayers of murderers and anti-social elements, why can we not offer prayer for a person who was transgender,” asked one activist.

“I feel like Alesha had to leave this world to bring a change and raise a voice against injustice,” said Farzana,  president of Shemale Association of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, adding, “I appreciate [the participation] and thank all the people who gathered for the funeral and arranged a coffin and grave.”

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Alesha was buried in the Rehman Baba Graveyard, in the Durrani Pur area outside the city.

Blogger Noman Ansari has written that any dignity for the transgender community in Pakistan “is almost impossible to find.” From birth to their death bed, they are ostracized as if they are the bearers of some invisible disease. Forced to live within their own communities, forced to take menial jobs or to beg on the streets, forced to put up with mental and physical abuse, forced to deal with sexual harassment, abuse and rape, from their fellow citizens or even those tasked with protecting them, the transgender people of Pakistan are constantly swimming against the tidal wave, “and we ignore their plight, because pretending they are invisible is easy,” he wrote. – CINEWS

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