Pakistan’s first transgender-only madrasa breaks barriers

Rani Khan, Pakistan's first transgender-only madrasa has ser up a religious school using money she saved up.

The school is an important milestone for the LGBTQ community in the Muslim-majority country, where transgender people face ostracism, even though there is no official restriction on them attending religious schools or praying at mosques. “Most families do not accept transgender people," said Ms Khan.Adding that, "they throw them out of their homes".

Khan, who was disowned by her family 13 was forced into begging At 17, she joined a transgender group, dancing at weddings and other functions, but quit to connect with her religion after a dream in which a deceased transgender friend and fellow dancer pleaded with her to do something for the community. Khan, who teaches the Quran daily, studied it at home and attended religious schools, before opening the two-room madrasa in October.

“I’m teaching the Quran to please God, to make my life here and in the hereafter,” Khan said.

She said the school offered a place for transgender people to worship, learn about Islam and repent for past actions.

The school has not received aid from the government, although some officials promised to help students find jobs.

Along with some donations, Khan is teaching her students how to sew and embroider. The aim of this is to sell clothes to raise funds for the school.

Pakistan’s parliament recognised the third gender in 2018, giving transgenders fundamental rights such as the ability to vote and choose their gender on official documents. Nonetheless, the transgender community remains marginalised in the country, and often has to resort to begging, dancing and prostitution to make a living. Hamza Shafqaat, Islambad's Deputy Commissioner said: "The madrasa could help trans people assimilate into mainstream society."

“I’m hopeful that if you replicate this model in other cities, things will improve,” he said. A madrasa for transgender people has opened in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and last year, a Christian transgender group started its own church in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi. Pakistan’s 2017 census recorded about 10,000 transgender people, though trans rights groups say the number could now be well over 300,000 in the country of 220 million.