Karachi-based Nisha Rao has become the first transgender lawyer of Pakistan. From begging on the streets to negotiating cases in the courtroom and standing up for transgender people's rights, Rao’s story has become an inspiration for many. A look at who is 28-year-old Nisha Rao.
Rao ran away from her home in Lahore at 18
The 28-year-old ran away from her middle-class family home in Lahore when she was 18, along with two other transgender persons. Rao arrived in Karachi, to seek an identity and a new life. However, she ended up begging on the streets of the city as the elder transgender people there advised her to beg or become a sex worker for survival and earning her meal. Thereafter, Rao begged from car to car at the traffic lights, but she refused to live like that all her life. She used her little income to pay for her law classes at night.
After several years of hard work, Rao managed to earn her law degree in 2018 from Sindh Muslim Law College. This led to her gaining a law license earlier this year, and joining the Karachi Bar Association. Over time, Rao has contested over 50 cases, broadening her clientele to transgender persons as well. She is even working with a non-governmental organisation which works and fights for transgender people's rights.
I am proud to have become Pakistan’s first transgender lawyer: Rao
Speaking to Reuters, Rao said, “I am proud to have become Pakistan’s first transgender lawyer.” As of 2017, there are nearly 500,000 people who identify as transgender in Pakistan. The parliament of Pakistan passed a law in 2018 which recognized transgender people as equal citizens under the law and granted protection from discrimination and harassment, while the Supreme Court allowed claiming a third gender on national identity cards in 2009.
“Rao used to beg here along with us, today she is better than many. But she still helps us, she even responds at midnight (if we contact her)," Nayab, a transgender beggar said.
According to Rao, the journey of setting examples doesn’t end for her at the attorney level. She aspires to become Pakistan’s first transgender judge one day. Rao is also working upon setting up a helpline for the transgender community, where they can help each other. She also wants to build an old age home for the transgender persons.
Shikha Chandra is an intern with SheThePeople.TV