A video detailing a horrific crime went viral on social media yesterday, showing one of the most repulsive but unfortunately not uncommon incidents of abuse. The video appeared to show armed men harassing, sexually abusing and torturing some members of the transgender community, which is one of the most disadvantaged groups in our society.

While such incidents, of criminals abusing and using violence against the transgender community, a group which is vulnerable to victimisation and exploitation, are not unheard of, this particular instance might just have a positive end. Rawalpindi Police took prompt action against the culprits, registering a case of kidnapping and rape. According to the Rawalpindi Police, the persons seen in the video have been identified and teams have been formed to arrest them. The CPO Rawalpindi has promised that the protection of transgender rights will be ensured from the platform of the protection centre in all cases.

Slowly but surely, legal protections for transgender persons have been coming into place. This sensitivity to trans issues should be focused particularly on the police since a lot of the abuse that the community faces includes sexual abuse and violence, incidents that require police action foremost of all. The improvement in Rawalpindi’s Police department can be appraised to the “Tahafuz (protection) centre” programme, which was initiated in May this year; the first-ever department to exclusively resolve complaints of people who are transgender.

The problems of discrimination and crime against trans people are deep-seated. Legal processes and protection can certainly help—but the ease and nonchalance with which violence is committed against trans people stems from a cultural and societal bias against seeing the community as an “other”. The protections are also very new—which is aided by a culture of impunity—while legal action is initiated at first, it has rarely been followed through. Thus, programmes like Tahafuz are extremely important from a policy perspective—they need to be further expanded and funded to improve access to justice for the trans community.