As issues regarding gender disparity come to light in Pakistan, the matter of transgender rights has emerged from obscurity. Although there are bills in motion aimed at protecting transgender people from sexual harassment and other offenses, and include their right to hold public office, inherit property and access public to spaces, abuse and discrimination against them is widespread. In an effort to address this issue, the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) has partnered with BBDO Pakistan to initiate a campaign called #ChangeTheClap. APTN has been working on various initiatives in the South Asian region in order to bring to the fore the injustices faced by the transgender community. According to data released by the sixth Population and Housing Census in August, 2017, Pakistan’s total transgender population stands at 10, 418, with Punjab accounting for 64.4%.
“The campaign is based on the ‘transgender clap’, a symbol of the transgender community, but widely taken out of context and mimicked by the public to ridicule them,” says Marli Gutierrez, Communications Officer, APTN.
The campaign asks people to #ChangeTheClap from one of ridicule to one of applause, respect and inclusion. While the insight stems from the subcontinent, APTN is aiming to speak for transgender rights on a global scale, through its local efforts, by having a positive impact on the lives of transgender people in Pakistan. According to Jamayal Tanweer, Business Director, BBDO Pakistan, “by stopping the mockery and promoting inclusion, #ChangeTheClap is working towards creating equal opportunities by increasing educational outreach to the transgender community.”
The campaign was launched in December 2017 (International Human Rights Day) to bring the issue of transgender rights to the forefront, raise awareness and advocate equal opportunities and is expected to run until March. “BBDO Pakistan is proud to continue creating powerful campaigns that fight for human rights and equal opportunities,” says Ali Rez, Regional Creative Director, BBDO Worldwide.
Within days of the launch, the campaign was picked up by celebrities, publishers, magazines and news channels not only in Pakistan, but globally as well. Pakistani celebrities, such as Ahmed Ali Butt, Asim Azhar, Ayesha Omar, Juggan Kazim, Munib Nawaz and Ushna Shah have gone on social media to support the cause by posting UGC (User Generated Video Content) videos of themselves changing the clap.
Although the government has added a third gender option to national identity cards (NICs) and passports, most transgenders do not have an NIC because they don’t know who their parents are, a fact that denies them basic rights such as enrolling for educational courses or applying for a job.
The campaign features the transgender activist Kami Sid. “Her own success story is strong enough to deliver the message,” says Tanweer. Sid has been working tirelessly to claim equal rights and opportunities for the community, and last year became the first Pakistani transgender fashion model. According to Tanweer, Sid believes that fashion will provide a more elaborate platform to further her cause. In addition to Sid, transgender rights activist Neeli Rana, and aspiring model Irha Parishei volunteered to be part of the campaign as well.
“The idea behind the campaign is to align its outcomes with the organisation’s broader goals concerning transgender rights,” said Gutierrez. Under the campaign’s banner, the world’s first clapping protest is planned to demand that the transgender rights bill be enacted.
Although the government has added a third gender option to national identity cards (NICs) and passports, most transgenders do not have an NIC because they don’t know who their parents are, a fact that denies them basic rights such as enrolling for educational courses or applying for a job. Hence, the campaign’s objectives are not only to have the transgender bill of rights enacted, but to pressure the government to find a way that will enable them to function like any other member of society.
According to Rez, another campaign objective is to publish a children’s book aimed at creating awareness about transgender people. In his view, a key challenge is to ensure that the campaign sustains the conversation outside the digital space. It is only then that the effort can become significant enough to have the required impact.