Does a person’s religion, colour, gender or sexual preference make them less or more efficient in the work place? The obvious answer should be ‘No’. But then we live in Pakistan where ones’ personal life is everybody’s business. Would you be uncomfortable working with an Ahmadi, sharing an office with a person of the opposite sex, or taking orders from a transgender boss? The answer for most would be ‘yes’, but that is the wrong answer. If anything, you should not be thinking about your co-worker’s personal issues or life choices as a professional. But the economic system is built on social prejudice. It is the socially weak and marginalised who are affected the most by economic disparities and the poor performance of the state when it comes to ensuring rights of citizens. Those whose rights are at greater risk include the poor in general, women, religious minorities, people with disabilities, IDPs, transgenders, people with HIV/AIDS and sex workers, and steps must be made to treat each human as a citizen. Supporting the LGBT community economically, and helping them survive, in no way encourages homosexuality if you are against it. It only provides a group of human beings with the right to be considered human.

People of the transgender community live dual lives full of pain and ridicule. In 2011 the Supreme Court ordered a third sex category for the transgender community on national identity cards and they were also allowed a share in their inheritance as well as a two per cent quota for jobs in all sectors along with the right to vote. The two per cent job quota system is nowhere in sight. Community centres have been built for them but they are not allowed to use them. They are also not given jobs in government offices, while private organisations, such as banks, don’t even allow them to open accounts.

Life is hard for these people. Dancing at weddings and parties is an additional source of income, and sometimes the only source due to their alienation from mainstream society. Across conservative Pakistan, many leave homes for the anonymity of a big city, fearing the reactions of their families while still concealing their identity from neighbours and co-workers. Every story is different and painful.

The issue here is simply that of being granted rights as citizens. Society and state doing so will not increase their numbers or any vice in society, but only their quality of life and peace of mind. They stay hidden for fear of persecution and that is no way to live, especially for a peaceful and non-violent community.