Journalist Maavia Malik just became Pakistan’s first transgender news anchor. Appointed by Kohenoor News, a private broadcasting company, Maavia made her first network appearance on Friday after three months of training.
Before she was an anchor, Maavia was a journalism graduate who also worked as a model. Her hiring comes after a vote earlier this month by Pakistan’s Senate to support a bill that gives transgender people full legal protection and allows them to determine their own gender identity. Maavia told the BBC: “Our community should be treated equally, and there must not be any gender discrimination. We should be given equal rights and be considered ordinary citizens, instead of a third gender.” Her mention of a “third gender” is because of the South Asian tradition of referring to transgender people as “third gender” and not as a man or woman.
Maavia also spoke of being estranged from her family. “My family knows I have modeled and they know that I work as a newscaster. It’s the age of social media and there’s nothing that my family doesn’t know. But they have still disowned me.”
Junaid Ansari, owner of the TV station, told VOA that Maavia was selected because of her merit and not because of her gender. “They are human beings, too, and they should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. I purely made the decision on the basis of treating all humans equally.The thought of challenging the social norms or breaking taboos did not even come to my mind,” Ansari said.
According to Pakistan’s 2017 census, over 10,000 transgender people reside in the country — and that number might actually be much higher. But often, transgender people are expected to beg or work in the sex trade, as VOA reports. As part of the bill that passed, the government will have to make sure employment opportunities and easy installment loans are accessible to transgender citizens.
Maavia told BBC that she nearly “screamed with joy” when she got the job. “The dream that I saw for myself, I was able to climb on the first stair to achieving it,” she said.