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13 Trans Candidates Are Running in Pakistan's Elections This Week

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Why Global Citizens Should Care
This year’s elections mark a breakthrough moment for trans rights in Pakistan, where trans people routinely face discrimination and harassment. The United Nations’ Global Goals calls on equal human rights for all people and you can take action on this issue here.

Thirteen transgender candidates will run for office in the Pakistan elections this Wednesday, reports the Guardian.

The conservative, religious Middle Eastern country has introduced some of the most progressive trans rights laws in the region over the last decade, paving a pathway for many to pursue vibrant, new livelihoods, according to the report.

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“There were 10,000 khwaja siras [trans and 'third-gender' people] counted in the census [last year],” said Almas Boby, who launched the country’s trans rights movement in 2004, in an interview with the Guardian.

But thanks to new legislation introduced in March, intersex people, eunuchs, and trans men and women now have the option to self-identify their gender on official government forms, noted the report.

“After this there will be millions, billions,” said Boby.

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The changes have inspired a number of transgender activists with political aspirations to enter local elections.

Nadeem Kashish, a 35-year-old transgender woman running for office in Islamabad, was kicked out of her family’s home when she was younger and forced to live with an elder trans “guru” who provides borders lodging in exchange for a cut of earnings made as a dancer or sex worker.

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Part of Kashish’s platform is to abolish the guru system.

“When you see a transgender person, do not give them your notes, give them your votes,” Kashish advised listeners to her weekly radio show.

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Other candidates echo those sentiments, citing continued discrimination, harassment, and societal exclusion, reported Time.

“Until you can influence the laws, you are their slaves — you are following rules and laws set by someone else,” said Nayyab Ali, a 26-year-old transgender candidate running in Punjab, in an interview with Time.

“We are not just the voice of the transgender community, we are also the voice of women and minorities. If you want a real change, vote transgender.”