Covid-19 pandemic is leaving Pakistan’s transgender community behind

By June 22, 2021 June 24th, 2021 Advocacy, Newsroom, Regional

Contributor: Nayyab Ali
Researcher, activist and trainer
APCOM’s 2020 HERO Awards recipient for Transgender Hero category 

“As the world comes together in solidarity, the transgender community in Pakistan fights Covid-19 alone.”

Nayyab Ali

As a leading transgender rights expert, I had the opportunity to conduct two researches on the impact of Covid-19 on the transgender community in geographically different areas such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan. Surprisingly the findings were the same but shocking, so I named one of my publications “Differently Similar.”

I found that the Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted everyone’s life profoundly. Its impacts have been much more severe for the members of marginalized and vulnerable communities, such as the transgender community, who already faced multiple social and health challenges before this crisis. As the world comes together in solidarity, the transgender community in Pakistan fights Covid-19 alone. This structurally discriminated group has been rendered even more marginalized under the double jolt of the disease and social distancing.

Distribution of Food Packages during Covid 19 pandemic among grassroots level transgender community

Stigma and discrimination make transgender people reluctant to disclose their health and socio-economic status and to ask for help. Transgender persons continue to experience discrimination from service providers and staff across the social protection and health care settings and social security safety nets – this leaves them more impoverished and more vulnerable in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Existing socio-economic marginalization and health conditions mean more trans-persons live in a state of invisible multi-dimensional vulnerability and compromised health.

Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, it was common to hear, “the virus is the great equalizer.” However, this crisis quickly illuminated the deep inequities in obtaining access to the necessary building blocks of health. This is especially true for the transgender and non-binary community. They have been unequally affected by the pandemic in several ways, including the risk of exposure to the virus and its adverse outcomes, delays in access to gender-affirming care, and diminished access to social support, which is crucial to protecting against the effects of stigma and discrimination. Notably, these challenges are occurring alongside numerous legal gaps, interpersonal challenges, and attacks on transgender rights.

About our contributor

Ms. Nayyab Ali is a researcher, renowned activist and master trainer, with professional experience of working on gender equality, livelihoods and economic empowerment. She has a background in human and institutional capacity development, and expertise in social research. She is Laureate of 100+ National & International recognitions including APCOM HERO Awards 2020, Franco- German Prize for Human Rights & Rule of Law 2020. She is also renowned as the Face of Transgender Movement in Pakistan. She is a qualified trainer on gender and minority inclusion issues and has been the resource person for building capacity and sensitization of law enforcement agencies across Pakistan. 
As an independent consultant, she has been associated with various UN agencies (UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women) to advocate a lobby for Trans rights. She has been actively engaged with government agencies and state departments as technical advisor for development of various legal frameworks at national and provincial level to protect rights of trans community in Pakistan. Despite suffering many personal tragedies, she has dedicated her life to activism and a struggle to protect the rights of the trans community. 

She was a member of the Transgender Task Force, a special committee formed for the review and recommendation on the Transgender Rights Protection bill, now it is a historic law pertaining to self-perceived gender identity in Pakistan. She was also a member of the former Chief Justice Special Committee on the status of Transgender CNIC registration. She contributed to the Transgender rights welfare policy in Punjab and founded the first school for the transgender community in Okara. In 2018 she contested in the General Elections from NA142 Okara. She is the National Coordinator of All Pakistan Transgender Election Network in Pakistan and is actively engaged in the political empowerment of her community. As an acid survivor herself she has worked extensively with various communities on GBV sensitization. Recently she was also elected as the co-chair of Ending Violence Against Women &Girls (EWAG) Alliance Pakistan.

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