Fleeing Gender: Reasons for Displacement in Pakistan’s Transgender Community

  • Laine P. MunirEmail author


Transgender women in Pakistan, or khwaja siras, continue to suffer human rights abuses that cause many to become Internally Displaced Persons, despite legal protections in their favor. The chapter poses a twofold question to explore this inconsistency. Firstly, it draws from illustrative case study research to identify the discrimination that informs transgender perceptions of persecution and forces them from their homes. Based predominantly on qualitative data, it presents a 5-part typology of cumulative forms of discrimination against khwaja siras in terms of family, employment, housing, education, and healthcare. Importantly, police act as key agents of persecution for them, permitting and participating in their oppression. Secondly, this sociolegal study asks how such widespread discrimination against transgender women can persist notwithstanding legal reforms—a problem of social progress failing to result from legal progress. It finds that human rights protections for the transgender population lack actual implementation due to inaccurate legal wording, low level of trust in legal institutions, and generalized social stigma against the LGBTI community. This analysis revealed not only that mainstream social conservatism mitigates enforcement of LGBTI-friendly laws, but also that such conservatism creates an environment in which their persecution qualifies khwaja siras for, but yet impedes their ability to gain, UN protection as refugees at the international level. The empirical data from this research draws heavily on four comparative life histories of khwaja siras, two who gained refugee status and two who did not, which demonstrate the patterns of persecution against the transgender community in Pakistan.


Transgender Pakistan Discrimination Displacement 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Conflict Analysis and ResolutionGeorge Mason University KoreaIncheonSouth Korea

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