A transgender activist who was shot eight times in Pakistan has died after hospital staff couldn’t decide whether to put her in a male or female ward.
The 23-year-old activist, known only as Alisha, was left in a critical condition and needing emergency surgery following the attack in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday night.
But medical staff at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar have been accused of failing to give her the medical attention necessary to save her life.
The transgender advocacy group Trans Action Alliance (TAA) – of which Alisha was a district coordinator – wrote a series of Facebook posts documenting the alleged mistreatment.
Left to die: Transgender activist Alisha (right) died after she was shot eight times in an attack on Sunday night. Activists claim she died after ‘transphobic’ doctors failed to give her the necessary treatment to save her life
Tragedy: Doctors spent hours trying to decide whether to place 23-year-old Alisha in a male or a female ward at the hospital in Peshawar. Pictured, a photograph posted on Facebook by the TAA of Alisha after surgery
‘After we protested, Alisha was shifted to a female ward but then female patients had a problem with her being transgender,’ they wrote, around four hours after the attack.
‘We really don’t know what to do and where to go.’
Some 20 minutes later, the group added: ‘Alisha has been operated on. She was shot eight times and her situation is critical.
‘The doctors say if she survives she will have to go through several surgeries but right now they are just trying to stabilise her. She is supposed to be in surgical ICU but there are no empty beds and so she’s in an ordinary hospital ward which seems like a ward from World War One.’
Shockingly, medics at the hospital are also accused of sexually harassing the members of the group who accompanied Alisha, asking how much they would charge to dance or have sex with them as their friend lay dying.
‘The operation theatre male staff kept giving me their numbers and everyone wanted my contact information,’ a later post read.
‘A doctor wants to know how much I charge to dance for a night and another health technician wants to know if I only dance or also perform sex… I mean WTF… I am with a patient who we don’t know whether or not she will survive.’
Before her death, Alisha spoke out about the conditions in which transgender people in Pakistan are forced to live, at a rally held on December 10 in Peshawar.
‘Society doesn’t accept us,’ she said. ‘At least we should be recognised as disabled or special persons by society.
‘I left home to avoid being ridiculed but even then people used to come to our houses and make fun of us for some reason or other.
‘We are the most vulnerable segment of society but the government gives us none of the rights due to us.’
Alisha is the fifth transgender activist from the TAA to be attacked in recent months in the conservative Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which is near to the country’s northern tribal areas.
Protest: The Trans Action Alliance, of which Alisha was a district coordinator, documented the discrimination suffered by themselves and Alisha at the hands of medical staff at the hospital
Uproar: Transgender people face deep discrimination in Pakistan’s more traditional societies, despite a Supreme Court ruling supposedly granting them equal rights in the country. Pictured, Alisha’s funeral
Cast out: Local governments have been accused of denying transgender people access to education and healthcare, forcing them to live on the fringes of society and turn to sex work and begging to earn money
Meanwhile, the TAA, which has been increasingly vocal in demanding equal rights for transgender people, estimates there are at least 45,000 transgender people in the province and at least half a million nationwide.
But they face deep discrimination in Pakistan’s more traditional societies, despite a Supreme Court ruling supposedly granting them equal rights in the country.
Local governments have been accused of denying them access to education and healthcare, forcing them to live on the fringes of society.
Some earn money by dancing at weddings and parties, where they are believed to bring good luck.
Others are forced to adopt high-risk lifestyles, working as prostitutes or begging on the street to make enough money to survive.