By Waqar Mustafa
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Transgender people in northwestern Pakistan are to be given a dedicated place to bury their dead after being ostracised by their families even in death.
The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said on Wednesday it would set sections of state graveyards aside for the burial of trans people - locally known as Khusra, or Hijra.
"Until now, transgender people have been burying their dead in private graveyards, out of the public gaze," said Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, who heads a provincial government committee on transgender rights.
"We are taking sincere steps for the resolution of transgender people's problems."
While Pakistan is deeply conservative and homosexuality is illegal, the country has approved laws giving transgender people better rights than in many other nations. Last year it issued its first passport with a transgender category.
Yet many continue to face discrimination, including verbal and physical abuse, and are ostracised by their families.
"Transgender people's families refuse to own them and their bodies," Farzana Jan, president of Pakistan's Transgender Association, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Nobody is ready even to lead the funeral prayers."
Ghani said state clergy would now lead the funeral prayers of trans people.
According to 2017 census data, Pakistan's total trans population stood at more than 10,400 - a number campaigners contest.
Qamar Naseem, a trans rights activist and a member of the National Taskforce and the Committee on Rights of Transgender Persons, said there were around 45,000 trans people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone.
"They are estimated to be around half a million across the country," he said. "Despite policies favouring them, the transgender people in the province are socially isolated and are stigmatised.
"This poses a serious threat to their education, health, security, life expectancy, inheritance rights and employment prospects."
Pakistan's Transgender Association estimates that 62 trans people have been killed since 2015 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Naseem said transgender activists had not called for dedicated graveyards, but nonetheless welcomed the move.
"It is a welcome step that the transgender people will have at least a place at last to bury their dead," he said.
(Reporting by Waqar Mustafa, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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