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First transgender newscaster appears on Pakistani television

Transgender Pakistan Wmc News 3 28 18
There's “nothing we can’t do,” says Pakistan's first transgender news anchor.

Pakistan’s first transgender news anchor has been hired by a local Pakistani television station, according to a story published Sunday by national English-language newspaper Dawn. Mavia Malik, who has a bachelor’s degree, which involved learning “the basics of journalism and civics,” came for an interview at Kohenoor News three months ago and was hired the same day. She’s since completed a training program at the station and anchored her first show.  

There is “nothing we can’t do,” Malik told Dawn in an interview. “We’re educated, have degrees, but no opportunities, no encouragement. This is what I want to change. Just as I created history in the fashion industry, I want to do the same in the media industry.” Previously, Malik has done some modeling, and recently walked the runway at a Lahore show in early March.  

Kohenoor News has maintained that Malik is the first transgender newscaster to be hired in the country, and the station’s owner, Junaid Ansari, has said he hired her only because she was qualified.  

“I purely made the decision on the basis of treating all humans equally,” Junaid Ansari told Voice of America. “The thought of challenging the social norms or breaking taboos did not even come to my mind.” He also hired another transgender woman on the outlet’s copy desk.  

In interviews, Malik addressed the widespread discrimination faced by transgender people in Pakistan, especially when it comes to employment discrimination. “Like other trans people, I did not get any support from my family,” she told Voice of America. “On my own, I did some menial jobs and continued my studies. I had always wanted to be a news anchor, and my dream came true when I got selected.”  

Although transgender people in Pakistan still face high rates of violence and poverty, the community has won important legal protections in recent years. The Pakistani Supreme Court recognized the existence of a hijras, who are considered a third gender category of people, in 2009. The country now permits citizens to denote a third gender category on their national IDs—male transgender, female transgender, or intersex. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that transgender people are entitled to the same rights as all other citizens, including the right to inheritance. In February, a bill passed enabling transgender people to be recognized as their gender without consent or approval from a medical board.  

Reporters in Pakistan cautiously celebrated the news. “The hiring of Marvia Malik as a news anchor is a bold new step for a country that's moving forward in the area of transgender rights,” Bina Shah, a prominent Pakistani journalist, told the Women’s Media Center. “But we have a long way to go before the movement becomes mainstream.”  

According to People magazine, the first transgender reporter to appear on television on the United States was Eden Lane, who has appeared on air for KBDI/Colorado Public Television since 2008. In a 2015 interview with People, Lane insisted she wanted to be recognized for her work, not her gender identity. 

“I’m so grateful to my station for taking a chance with me,” Lane said. “I wanted to be a journalist, not the ‘first trans journalist.’ I didn’t have an agenda. I wanted to—and still want to—do good work. I never hid who I was, but I didn’t lead with it, either. I am just another journalist who wants to be good at what I do.”  

Lane and Malik are not alone in paving the way for tolerance and equality in media. Organizations like the Washington-based National Association for LGBTQ Journalists (founded in 1991) have offered community, mentorship, and professional guidance for both LGBTQ journalists and the people who employ and work with them.  

Still, transgender people around the world face near-constant threats and violence. In 2016, there was a surge in violent attacks on such individuals in Pakistan and, so far in 2018 in the U.S., eight transgender people have already been shot dead.

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