Pakistan makes history with transgender newsreader

A Pakistani news channel has made history by hiring its first transgender news anchor. 

Marvia Malik, a 21-year-old journalist, hosted her first programme on the Kohenoor network on Friday.

Her television debut went viral on Twitter and Facebook, and her hiring was praised by social media users as a positive development in the socially conservative country. Ms Malik said she was moved to tears on hearing she’d got the job and that she hoped by as example she will improve the lives of other transgender Pakistanis. 

"We should be given equal rights and be considered ordinary citizens, instead of third-gender," she told the BBC.

Many transgender people face enormous discrimination in Pakistan and are marginalised and mocked by wider society.

Ms Malik says she has been estranged from her family since she was 15 years old.

Transgender people struggle to find work in Pakistan and often resort to begging, dancing or prostitution.

Members of the Pakistani transgender community stage a protest in Lahore after some women were arrested for beggingCredit:
AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

Earlier this month, Pakistani’s Senate voted in favour of a bill that protects the rights of transgender people and allows them to determine their own gender identity. It also prevents employers from discriminating against them.

The television network has said that Ms Malik was hired on merit, and that the company was not deliberately trying to make any kind of statement.

Its owner, Junaid Ansara, told the American radio network VOA News that transgender people "should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve".

He went on to say: "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."

Before becoming a journalist, Ms Malik worked in Pakistan as a model.

She was also the first transgender model to go down a catwalk in her country during the Pakistan Annual Fashion Design Council earlier this month

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