Trans people were not properly counted in Pakistan’s census
Hijras in the Pakistan capital, Islamabad.
Pakistan’s trans community is refuting the results of the country’s latest census.
They are saying the census did not accurately count trans people. Advocates say there are many more trans people in Pakistan than what the census reflects.
The census data showed that only a little more than 10,000 trans people lived in Pakistan. That’s about 0.005% of the population.
National advocacy group Trans Action claims there are about 500,000 trans people in Pakistan.
In January this year the Lahore High Court directed the Pakistani government to include transgender people in the March census. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistic (PBS) carried out the country’s 6th national census.
Even though the move was celebrated at the time, many trans people have complained they were not visited by census data collectors.
‘If the census teams had approached me, I would have let them meet hundreds of transgender people living in this area,’ Shilpa Sanam told The Express Tribune.
Nadeem Kashish founded the organization, Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights (Safar), and could not believe the low numbers recorded by the census. She also argued census staff were not properly trained to identify trans people.
‘The count shared by the PBS is entirely misleading and inaccurate as the number of transgender persons in Pakistan is increasing with each passing day,’ she told the Express Tribune.
‘Whosoever made a claim of being a transgender was counted as so without any verification.’
One of the barriers to recognizing trans people was that many people’s computerised national identity cards (CNICs) did not reflect their true gender. Also, many people did not have a CNIC to prove their gender to data collectors. Census staff refused to count them if they did not have a CNIC.
‘Though I am a transgender, I was counted as a male in the national census,’ Sanam said.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that passports and CNICs should include a column for trans people.
Another reason the figure might be so low is because many trans people kept their gender identity a secret.
‘I know many transgender persons who were counted as males while many did not register themselves as their parents did not allow them to do so,’ trans advocate Neeli Rana told Daily Pakistan.