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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
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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

transgender, lgbt, news anchor
“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

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‘A Fantastic Woman’ Could Have Been Paramount in Portraying a Transgender Woman’s Struggle

"A Fantastic Woman" fails to carry us along in its protagonist's tough journey from bereavement to isolation to confrontation to settlement. Marina can't wait to get out of it.

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Daniella Vega
'A fantastic Women' seems stretched out. Flickr

Film: “A Fantastic Woman” (Spanish, with English Subtitles, based on a transgender woman); Director: Sebastian Lelio; Starring: Daniela Vega; Rating: 1/2 (2 and a half stars)

“A Fantastic Woman” could have been penetrating portrait of a transgender woman’s struggle for dignity after her middle-aged lover suddenly dies on her.

Marina (played with consummate sensitivity by Daniela Vega) never quite recovers from the traumatic shock. Neither does the film. It quickly goes downhill from the point of tragedy, building what looks like a shell-shocked narrative in-sync with the stupor that falls over Daniela’s soul after Orlando (Francisco Reyes) passes away.

The ensuing trauma of a ‘woman’ who is unacceptable to society for her gender and status in the life of the man she loved, is brought out like a dentist extracting rotten teeth. It is a graceless situation.And director Sebastian Lelio goes with the frown, rendering every crease in Daniela’s disheveled existence in shades of black and fright.

Daniela Vega
Spanish makes the dialogue-heavy sequences, makes it seem unnecessarily stretched-out and verbose. Flickr

Daniela’s dilemma is so in-your-face, it hardly needed to be affirmed so strongly by the narrative. Her humiliation is shown in scenes in the hospital and at the police station. And we know what happens to the mistress specially when she is gender-challenged. But Marina’s behaviour post the tragedy eschews empathy. She frets, fumes, snarls and at one point even jumps on to the car of her deceased lover’s family to bounce up and down.

By this point the edgy narrative begins to look uneasily unfocused.

Perhaps Marina’s unconventional methods of protest are a cultural things. Maybe in Chile, the conventions of bereavement are played out at a pitch that seems fairly bizarre to us. Also, the fact that the film is in Spanish makes the dialogue-heavy sequences, such as the one where Marina is confronted by Orlando’s wife in a car basement, seems unnecessarily stretched-out and verbose.

Also Read: Eating diorder can be treated in transgenders

“A Fantastic Woman” fails to carry us along in its protagonist’s tough journey from bereavement to isolation to confrontation to settlement. Marina can’t wait to get out of it.

Neither can we. (IANS)