Local police representative Raz Mohammad Khan toldThe Express Tribune that the accused were arrested after the victims “approached the police with a written complaint detailing their ordeal.”
Earlier in the day, trans folks from around Pakistan protested outside the Peshawar Press Club to calling for an end to harassment and gender violence and calling for the government to offer more protections for its marginalized citizens.
Peshawar is the capital and main cultural center of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and though the conservative city’s population is 99% Muslim, it’s been home to at least nine different ethnic groups (Pashtun, Hindkowa, Punjabi to name a few) as well as several other religious communities (including Bukharan Jews and those of the Bahai faith).
The city’s main transgender organization, the Shemale Association Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, gathered protesters who beat their heads and chests in a appeal to authorities to arrest men from the Bakhshi Pul village who allegedly held them at gunpoint and sexually abused them. It wasn’t the first such attack.
In Pakistan transgender people are often paid to celebrate the birth of a son or to dance at weddings, but today many end up homeless or working as prostitutes in a country where being gay or having sex outside marriage are very much taboo. Trans women are often the victims of rape or other assaults.
Farzana Riaz, president of the Shemale Association Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told Dawn.com reporters a group of people in Bakhshu Pul asked a dozen trans performers to appear at a dance party. “My colleagues performed on Sunday night, but on return another group of people took them to an unknown place at gunpoint,” Riaz said. Many of the victims were sexually abused, and those who resisted had their hair cut.
“This has become a routine,” Riaz said. “We are peaceful people. We provide entertainment to the people but these people insult and harass us. We cannot do other jobs. We earn our livelihood through dancing but these criminals snatched the amount from us and now they are demanding Rs50,000 from each and every eunuch that we cannot afford.” (The word eunuch is sometimes used for transgender people.)
Riaz told reporters that at least 20 other trans people had been victimized in the same fashion, and many of them have since left the city in fear. The same perpetrators may have been responsible for a previous incident in which a group of trans performers was attacked by up to 20 men who filmed the attack and uploaded the video online.
Trans activists say they have asked the province’s chief minister, Ameer Haider Hoti, to arrest the culprits and protect Pakistan’s trans people. No word on how Hoti will respond, but police say getting the victims to come forward on record will be equally important to finding justice for people like Riaz.