Transgender In Pakistan Maya The Woman Who Almost Broke Free

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Transgender In Pakistan Maya The Woman Who Almost Broke Free

In early 2019, Maya was on the run – but happy.

She was from Nowshera, northern Pakistan, where society is conservative and tolerance for non-conformity runs thin. And Maya didn’t conform. She was transgender, born male but identifying and living as woman.

She had escaped abuse at home three times, running far away each time. She’d found happiness and a new community, but then took the chance of moving closer to her family home in Peshawar.

“I wish we had known better,” says her childhood friend Mehek Khan.

Because Maya’s family tracked her down and within a month of her move, she was dead.

Police suspect her brother and uncle killed her, but they have denied any involvement.

Rights activists allege the police have left many loopholes in the case, meaning justice may never be reached for Maya, as for so many of Pakistan’s murdered transgender women.

‘We were drawn to each other’

In Maya’s home state of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, transgender women tend to identify as being a third gender – they often refer to themselves as “she-males”.

A series of court rulings since 2009 have recognised a third gender in law, but implementation is problematic. Socially, transgender individuals continue to be treated as lesser beings, having no right to claim privacy or personal dignity, or even safety.

Maya’s story highlights the dark side of these realities.

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“We were drawn to each other right from the start,” says Mehek. “It may be because we were becoming aware of our common gender.”

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Maya and Mehek grew up across the road from each other in the rural outskirts of Nowshera. Both were born male, but always felt female, says Mehek. She would sometimes put on a dupatta (a head scarf) or paint her nails.

Mehek’s father and uncle considered her a disgrace.

“They would often beat me up, lock me in a room… but I couldn’t stop repeating it,” Mehek says. Maya faced the same treatment from her male relatives when she experimented with dressing as a woman.

Transgender In Pakistan Maya The Woman Who Almost Broke Free

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