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Pakistan’s once-ridiculed transgender community fight elections for first time

Hijras can vote and run for seats in polls following supreme court\ndecision recognising them as 'third gender.'

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

21st May 2013 08:02

Alessia Valenza

In a small, dark room above a mechanic’s workshop, Naina Lal is planning her campaign. Her supporters stack leaflets and sheets of stickers on a grubby carpet. Phones play a jingle composed for her. Outside, the noon sun sends the temperature past 40C (104F).

Lal, 28, is one of a handful of candidates from Pakistan’s "transgender" community standing in national and provincial elections on Saturday. Known as "hijra", a catch-all term for transexuals, hermaphrodites and transvestites but usually indicating someone born male identifying as a woman, they have faced discrimination and
ridicule for centuries. Living apart, they have traditionally earned a living as dancers, circus performers, sex workers and beggars.

But after a supreme court ruling last year allowing them to obtain national identity cards that recognise them as neither male or female, this election will be the first in which hijras can vote and stand as a "third gender". Candidates such as Lal say it is a sign of change in the country.

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