By Zeeshan Haider
ISLAMABAD (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A transgender woman in Pakistan was shot for refusing to have sex with attackers who broke into her home, in the latest in a series of assaults on trans people, police said.
The victim, in her mid-twenties, suffered a gunshot wound to her thigh after three armed men broke into her home in the northwestern town of Mansehra on Monday and tried to rape her.
"They opened fire on her and wounded her on refusing to have sex and then fled the area," police official Ammar Niaz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Mansehra, in the socially conservative province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
"We are conducting raids to arrest the attackers. We hope to arrest them soon," he said late on Tuesday, adding that the victim had been discharged from hospital and was now recovering.
The incident - the latest in a string of attacks targeting Pakistan's transgender community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province - sparked protests in Mansehra on Monday.
Scores of members and supporters of country's transgender or "hijra" community took to the streets demanding authorities find the perpetrators and ensure their prosecution.
The protesters also called for increased security and protection for transgender people in the face of such attacks.
Trans people technically enjoy better rights in Pakistan than in other countries around the world, but in practice they are marginalized and discriminated against in accessing health, education and jobs, and they often face violence and stigma.
The country's Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that "hijras" - which include transvestites, transsexuals and eunuchs - could get national identity cards as a "third sex."
Yet many hijras in Pakistan as well as other South Asian nations such as India and Bangladesh are attacked, raped or forced to work as sex workers to support themselves. Others beg for alms at traffic lights or on the streets.
According to transgender rights groups, there have been at least five attacks on the community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone in recent months.
In May, a transgender activist died in hospital after being shot multiple times by a male friend in the city of Peshawar. Her friends accused the hospital of delays in her treatment and deciding whether to admit her in a male or female ward.
Almas Bobby, president of SheMale Foundation Pakistan, said despite the Supreme Court decision, the community continues to face discrimination and abuses mainly because the government had put in place biased regulations.
"We are not being issued ID cards showing our genders because authorities want us to undergo a medical examination to ascertain our gender," Bobby told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"We have refused to do it. Do they do such tests when men and women apply for ID cards. Then why are we being discriminated against?"
(Reporting by Zeeshan Haider. Editing by Nita Bhalla and Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)