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Pakistan’s First Transgender News Anchor

"There is a lot of difference between the pre- and post-March 23 Marvia. It had to happen. The change had to come,"

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Marvia Malik, Pakistan's first transgender news anchor. VOA

Washington, March 25 TV viewers in Pakistan, on March 23, saw something they had never seen before —a transgender anchor presenting the news in prime time.

Despite this giant leap, Marvia Malik, the first and only transgender news anchor in the country, said the difficulties faced by people like her in Pakistan are far from over.

“I am a journalism degree holder, but I faced the same difficulties [as] the transgender people who simply beg or dance in the streets,” Malik told VOA in a phone interview.

ALSO READ: A Tale of Resilience and Courage: India’s First Transgender Judge Joyita Mondal

transgender, lgbt, news anchor
In a country such as Pakistan, it is common to mock transgender people, who are expected to earn their livelihood mainly by dancing, begging or working in the sex trade. Pixabay

The most daunting task for them is getting a respectable job. But Malik said if more entrepreneurs and businesses showed more courage in breaking the social taboos as her employer, “Kohenoor News,” things can change.

“Like other trans people, I did not get any support from my family.On my own, I did some menial jobs and continued my studies. I had always wanted to be a news anchor, and my dream came true when I got selected,” she said.

Junaid Ansari, owner of the TV station, told VOA that Malik was not selected because the station wanted to make a point about breaking taboos. Ansari said he instructed his team to make the selection on the basis of merit and not gender.

ALSO READ: Here’s why Being a Transgender is the biggest regret in Pakistan

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“We had asked aspiring news presenters to come for the auditions. I got a call from one of my team members who said that one of the applicants was a transgender,” Ansari said. Pixabay

There was some pushback from his team, but Ansari stuck to his decision.

“They are human beings, too, and they should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. I purely made the decision on the basis of treating all humans equally.The thought of challenging the social norms or breaking taboos did not even come to my mind,” Ansari said.

Ansari said feedback regarding Malik’s hiring has been mostly positive, though the station has received some negative feedback.

ALSO READ: Is US military looking forward to recruiting transgender people?

transgender, lgbt, news anchor
In Pakistan’s Twittersphere and other social media platforms, people are praising Malik’s selection, calling it a step in the right direction. Pixabay

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Senate approved a bill for the protection of transgender rights. The bill asked the government to ensure employment opportunities and easy installment loans for transgender people.

According to the 2017 census, there are over 10,000 transgender people in Pakistan, a number some people say is much higher.

In the meantime, Malik is enjoying her instant fame.

“There is a lot of difference between the pre- and post-March 23 Marvia. It had to happen. The change had to come,” she said. VOA

Next Story

Poland Chairman Calls LGBT Rights Movement a Threaten to Polish Nation

Miroslawa Makuchowska thinks the party chairman's anti-LGBT message was meant to distract attention from corruption scandals

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FILE - The leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, casts a vote in parliament in Warsaw, Poland, July 20, 2017. VOA

The chairman of Poland’s conservative ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has called the LGBT rights movement a foreign import that threatens the Polish nation.

Kaczynski, a member of parliament who wields tremendous influence as leader of the Law and Justice party, also said during a lecture on patriotism that “everyone must accept Christianity” in Poland and that questioning the Roman Catholic Church is unpatriotic.

The positions Kaczynski expressed Wednesday in the central city of Wloclawek came as Poland’s powerful Catholic Church is under scrutiny for child sex abuse by clergy and superiors who might have covered up for pedophile priests.

Poland also has two elections this year: the vote next month to elect the country’s representatives to the European Union parliament and a national election in the fall. With his remarks, Kaczynski seemed to be tapping into the belief held by some Poles that liberal values have been forced on them as a result of Poland joining the EU 15 years ago.

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FILE – People take part in the annual “Equality Parade” rally of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights supporters in Warsaw, Poland, June 3, 2017. VOA

Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party won the last general election in 2015, the height of Europe’s mass migration crisis. The party’s campaign included portraying Muslim refugees as a threat to Poland.

Greater visibility

In recent weeks, Law and Justice has described the LGBT rights movement as another danger to Polish families and children. LGBT rights have become increasingly visible as more Polish cities and towns hold gay pride parades, even places known as bastions of the church and conservative values.

Miroslawa Makuchowska, from the group Campaign Against Homophobia, said she thinks the party chairman’s anti-LGBT message was meant to distract attention from corruption scandals in the Catholic Church and in the Polish government.

“These are the same methods and same messages” used to demonize Muslim immigrants, Makuchowska said. “It’s appalling and frightening because it’s scapegoating.”

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Miroslawa Makuchowska thinks the party chairman’s anti-LGBT message was meant to distract attention from corruption scandals. Pixabay

The Catholic Church has long been revered as the institution that kept the language and spirit of Poland’s people alive during a long period of foreign rule, while also supporting the democracy movement under communism

But the church’s standing has taken a hit as sex abuse victims increasingly speak publicly about past crimes of accused priests. Public opinion surveys show falling support for having nuns and priests, or even lay educators, teach religion in public schools, as is now the case.

ALSO READ: WHO Launches World’s First Malaria Vaccine, Now Working on Vaccines Against Cancer

A movie about the clergy abuse problem, Kler (Clergy), became a blockbuster hit last year. On Wednesday, Kaczynski called the film an “attack on the church” and alleged it’s the LGBT rights movement that puts Polish children at risk.

“We are dealing with a direct attack on the family and children — the sexualization of children, that entire LBGT movement, gender,” he said. “This is imported, but they, today, actually threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state.” (VOA)