Islamabad, July 19: Pakistani transgender Nadeem Kashish knows that she will not win a seat in the July 25 general elections but is still standing as a candidate and believes that she has already won by fighting for the acceptance of her community that lives on the margins of society in the country.
"I have won the elections already as more people are coming to me and are talking about us," the 43-year-old makeup artist said here. Kashish is running in the same constituency as former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and former cricketer Imran Khan of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, one of the favourites to become the next leader of the country, Efe news reported.
For the first time in history, election candidates can decide their gender and thanks to a law passed by Parliament in May, a man identifying himself as a woman does not have to appear as a male in the elections. Kashish campaigns in her neighbourhood, distributing pamphlets in the north of Islamabad, where she urges passers-by to vote for her.
She decided to run for election after several politicians appeared on the television channel where she works as a makeup artist. "So I decided to create a platform and use it for the next generation of transgender children so they don't face the difficulties I faced."
Pakistan does not offer opportunities to the transgender community, members of which face great discrimination that begins with family rejection and leaves them to beg, dance or go into prostitution as a way of earning a living.
Kashish was no exception. At 16, she was thrown out of her home because of her feminine behaviour and took refuge in a community of transgenders, where a guru serves as both father and mother while other transgenders act as sisters akin to a family.
She cut ties with the guru because he forced her to prostitute herself and went to another community where she encountered the same problem and left there as well.
Her stubbornness bore fruit and in 2006 she found work as a makeup artist on a television channel in Islamabad and soon after she set up a non-profit to help other transgender people.
Although there are no official data on violence against the group in Pakistan, the non-profit Transaction Alliance, based in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that in the province itself 54 transgenders have been killed and 400 have been beaten up since 2015.
To deal with this situation, the Parliament approved in May the first law that guaranteed transgender rights, establishing their right to inherit property and banned discrimination in educational institutions and workplaces.
Kashish is well aware that Abbasi or Khan will defeat her but insists on the victory of her campaign for equal rights. "I feel people have started giving us acceptance."