From begging on streets to fighting cases in court, Pakistan's first transgender lawyer Nisha Rao has come a long way
Life is challenging for transgender people in Pakistan, where the apex court has so far authorised them to establish a third gender on their national identity cards.
In 2018, the parliament enacted a bill that recognised transgender individuals as equal citizens and provided them with protection from discrimination and violence.
As a result of their treatment as aliens, many transgender persons are sexually assaulted, and many end up working as wedding dancers or begging to make their ends meet.
But one of them is Nisha Rao who defied all the odds and took destiny into her own hands. She realised that to make changes in society she had to do something on her own. Nisha Rao’s beginning was very difficult. Nisha was always bullied because of her lifestyle, the way she dressed. She was not spoon-fed with the right direction and money to fund her education.
After fleeing her middle-class family in the eastern city of Lahore with two other transgender people, Nisha ended up begging on the streets in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, when she was merely 15 years old.
When she arrived in Karachi, she was urged to beg to make ends meet by the elder transgender persons she sought refuge with.
Nisha begged at traffic lights from car to car, but she was determined to get off that track, and she eventually utilised her earnings to pay for nighttime law school.
She acquired a law degree after several years and joined the Karachi Bar Association in the year 2020 after receiving her law license.
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She has worked on 50 cases and is currently working with a non-governmental organisation that advocates for transgender rights.
“People should ask transgenders have they eaten food? when they return home, no one asks them about their needs and problems. Only parents do ask such things which transgenders don’t have […] parents are good but social pressure forces them to abandon their trans children. [to change this mindset] Society must respect and love us,” Nisha told Dialogue Pakistan.
According to the 2017 census, there are 10,418 transgender persons in Pakistan out of the population of 207 million, while rights group Charity Trans Action Pakistan estimates that there are at least 500,000. Words are not enough to express what Nisha Rao has achieved after becoming the first transgender advocate.
Nisha’s life journey is an inspiration for other transgenders to come out, break the stereotypes and achieve greater heights. Transgenders are also humans and have the capabilities to match up with society. Let’s hope that in the near future, many transgender people will come forward will set an example for the world.