A member of the transgender community applies make up as she prepares for Shakeela's party in Peshawar, Pakistan on January 22, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters / Caren Firouz
The latest killing of a transgender woman in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province exemplifies the government’s failure to take measures to protect the rights of its transgender citizens.

On May 4, assailants fatally shot Muni, a transgender woman, after she could not provide smaller currency for a 1000 rupee note (US$9) that could be “showered” upon transgender women invited to dance at a wedding. This was the latest of several recent attacks on transgender women in the province, the fourth killing in 2018 and the 57th since 2015, according to local activists.

Central has been the K-P government’s failure to ensure officials assist transgender victims of attack and hold those responsible for attacks accountable. When activists have sought police protection and medical treatment following these attacks, hospital staff have been unwilling to treat victims while police won’t pursue the case. For example, in August 2016, after assailants shot a transgender woman three times in the abdomen when she resisted abduction and rape, the district hospital refused to admit her, saying they only had male and female wards. She died while waiting. According to transgender rights groups, on occasions the police have taken transgender women to the police station, they taunted them, forcibly removed their clothing, ordered them to dance, and poured cold water on them when they refused. Those who complained were subjected to more abuse.

Pakistani law includes provisions to protect the rights of transgender people. In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court, like other courts in South Asia, called on all provincial governments to recognize the rights of transgender people. The judgment specifically called for improved police responses to cases involving transgender people, and to ensure the rights of transgender people. The K-P parliament has also pledged to uphold some rights for this marginalized population, including voting.

The K-P authorities should undertake prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into the recent attacks on transgender people in the province, and appropriately prosecute those responsible. The provincial government should also ensure that local officials, medical workers and police respect transgender people’s rights.