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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

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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?

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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

India Set to Acquire First Dedicated LGBT Hiring Consultancy Firm

"We have over 50 companies, who are very interested in hiring from the LGBTI talent pool," Sinha said

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"We have over 50 companies, who are very interested in hiring from the LGBTI talent pool," Sinha said. Pixabay

Almost a year after the landmark Supreme Court judgement decriminalising homosexuality, India is set to get its first dedicated hiring consultancy firm for the members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community.

At present, even after the change in law, members of India’s LGBTQ community lag behind their western counterparts in attaining equal pay, corporate representation and other benefits.

Accordingly, the Bengaluru-based Diversity & Inclusion firm — Pride Circle — plans to shatter some of these stereotypes via a dedicated wing which will look at the job consultancy market for the LGBTQ candidates.

“There is a lot of systemic bias and roadblock for LGBTI job seekers, these becomes even more challenging for visibly LGBT individuals,” Pride Circle’s Co-Founder Ramkrishna Sinha told IANS.

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“The companies which participated in the job fair were delighted by the candidates they met, five candidates already got confirmed job offers from the fair.” VOA

“Our goal is to work with companies to eliminate such conscious or unconscious biases in the recruitment process and also work with candidates to enable them for facing interviews. A lot of LGBT candidates face issues of self-esteem, due to the series of discrimination they have faced.”

Not just unemployment of LGBTQ candidates, even the lack of sensitisation and unfriendly policies towards businesses that cater to this internationally significant segment of consumers has led to an estimated loss of around $30 billion to India’s GDP as per a World Bank report.

The 2014 World Bank report — Economic Cost of Homophobia and the exclusion of LGBTQ people: A case of India — estimated the country to have lost 0.1-1.7 per cent of the GDP due to homophobia.

“Companies have been hesitant in engaging and at times are unaware of the method to that engagement. The siloes leads to stereotypes and misinformation on both ends, leading to a growing chasm, our aim to build platforms of engagement for the community and corporation to meet,” Sinha said.

“We are encouraging corporations to have avenues of dialogue, look at opportunities to engage besides a full time job, and these could be fellowship, internship, skill building programs etc.”

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Additionally, the firm aims to organise the job fair in 10 cities over the next 18-24 months. The firm is hopeful to place at least 1,000 LGBTQ candidates within a year. Pixabay

Globally, this segment known generically as — Pink Dollar Economy — has become a financially significant sub-section of the consumer market for various industries like travel, insurance and even white goods.

Recently, the firm organised India’s first LGBTQ job fair — RISE (Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity) — in Bengaluru. Over 40 companies participated in the event including the likes of Uber and Intel.

ALSO READ: People Feel it’s Time for Gay Marriage to Be Made Legal in India

Besides, the job fair saw a participation of more than 300 LGBTQ candidates for various sectors in IT, banking and administration. “We have over 50 companies, who are very interested in hiring from the LGBT talent pool,” Sinha said.

“The companies which participated in the job fair were delighted by the candidates they met, five candidates already got confirmed job offers from the fair.” Additionally, the firm aims to organise the job fair in 10 cities over the next 18-24 months. The firm is hopeful to place at least 1,000 LGBTQ candidates within a year. (IANS)