Nisha Rao is Pakistan’s first transgender lawyer and has defied expectations with her success.
Rao, 28, has risen through poverty to pave a path directly to Pakistan’s courts scene with incredible determination.
LGBTQ+ rights in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are still a contentious issue, but some progress was reached in 2009 as the Supreme Court ruled in favour of transgender individuals being able to state their third gender on their national identity cards.
More recently, we have seen gradual societal and political progress. Pakistan’s parliament passed a law in 2018 recognising transgender people as equal citizens and protecting them from discrimination and violence.
The Transgender Person (Protections of Rights) Act will ensure that trans people will have their gender recognised on official government documents. That includes passports, driver’s licenses, and other government-issued paperwork.
It will also prohibit discrimination against transgender people in workplaces, healthcare, schools, universities, and on public transport.
Rao, at first, spent much of her time begging on the street for money. After tirelessly saving what she could, she was able to earn a law degree, license, and join the Karachi Bar Association.
Pakistan is estimated to have 10,418 transgender citizens out of 207 million according to a 2017 census, but Charity Trans Action Pakistan, a trans rights activist group, estimates there are at least 500,000.
Now, Roa is advocating for transgender rights with a non-governmental organisation. Speaking to Reuters, the lawyer expressed her satisfaction at the change she has helped encourage.
“I am proud to have become Pakistan first transgender lawyer,” Rao said and followed up by declaring her goal is to “become Pakistan’s first transgender judge.”