Pakistan’s first trans-only madrasa breaks down barriers | LGBTQ News

Transgender creates a religious school, a milestone for the LGBTQ community in the predominantly Muslim country.

With a long white shawl on her head, Rani Khan gives daily Koran lessons in Pakistan’s first transgender-only madrasa, a religious school that she herself created using her savings.

School is a milestone for the LGBTQ community in the predominantly Muslim country, where transgender people face ostracism, even though there are no official restrictions on their attending religious schools or praying in mosques.

“Most families don’t accept transgender people. They throw them out of their homes. Transgender people turn to wrongdoing, ”said Khan, 34, as other transgender people, with their heads similarly covered, swayed back and forth behind her, reciting verses from the Quran.

“At one time, I was also one of them.”

Rani Khan reads Quran at Pakistan’s first trans-only school that she started herself [Salahuddin/Reuters]

Holding back tears, Khan recalled how she was disowned by her family at 13 and forced to beg.

At 17, she joined a transgender group, dancing at weddings and other events, but abandoned it to connect with her religion after a dream in which a deceased transgender friend and fellow dancer begged her to do something for the community.

Khan studied the Quran at home and attended religious schools, before opening the two-room madrasa in October.

“I teach the Quran to please God, to make my life here and in the hereafter,” said Khan, explaining how the school provided a place for transgender people to worship, learn Islam and repent past actions.

She says the school has not received help from the government, although some officials have promised to help students find jobs.

Rani Khan watches one of her students during a sewing lesson [Salahuddin/Reuters]

In addition to a few donations, Khan teaches his students to sew and embroider, hoping to raise money for the school by selling clothes.

The Pakistani parliament recognized the third sex in 2018, granting these people basic rights such as the ability to vote and choose their gender on official documents.

Nevertheless, the transgender community remains on the fringes of the country and often has to resort to begging, dancing and prostitution to earn a living.

The madrasa could help trans people integrate into mainstream society, Hamza Shafqaat, deputy commissioner of Islamabad, told Reuters news agency.

“I hope if you replicate this model in other cities things will improve,” he said.

Rani Khan prays with one of his students [Salahuddin/Reuters]

A madrasa for transgender people has opened in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and last year a transgender Christian group opened their own church in the bustling port city of Karachi, southern Pakistan.

Pakistan’s 2017 census counted around 10,000 transgender people, although trans rights groups say the number could now be well over 300,000 in the country of 220 million people.

“It gives peace to my heart when I read the Quran,” said Simran Khan, a 19-year-old student, who is also keen on learning life skills.

“It’s much better than a life full of insults.”

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