Pakistani News Channel Makes History With First Transgender Anchor
By Mila Madison
Marvia Malik, a journalism graduate and former model told BBC News she was “moved to tears” after finding out she was being offered the anchor position. After training for three months, she made her debut on Friday for private broadcaster Kohenoor.
Malik said she had to stop herself from screaming with joy when she learned she had landed the job."The dream that I saw for myself, I was able to climb on the first stair to achieving it," she said.
It is her hope that her work will help to improve the lives of Pakistan's transgender community.
"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 third-gender," Malik said.
Despite her accomplishments and being in the public eye, Malik also says her family still doesn’t want anything to do with her. "My family knows I have modelled and they know that I work as a newscaster,” Malik said.” It's the age of social media and there's nothing that my family doesn't know. But they have still disowned me."
In Pakistan, it is common to mock transgender people, who are often forced to make a living by dancing, begging, or working in the sex trade. "I am a journalism degree holder, but I faced the same difficulties [as] the transgender people who simply beg or dance in the streets," Malik told VOA News in a phone interview. "Like other trans people, I did not get any support from my family. 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," she said.
Junaid Ansari, the owner of Kohenoor, said the decision to give Mailk the anchor position was based solely on merit, and that it had nothing to do with gender. Ansari also said the response to Malik's hiring has been mostly positive, but the station has also received some negative feedback as well.
Pakistan's Senate approved a bill for the protection of transgender rights earlier this month. The bill asked the government to ensure employment opportunities and easy installment loans for transgender people. Malik says despite the progress made, transgender people in Pakistan still face many difficulties. “Pakistan has been independent for so long, yet we don’t have the same rights as any other individual in the country. Only claims have been made and promises of quota in government jobs, but nothing has come out of it,” Malik told dawn.com. “The story of every transgender (person) is the same whether they beg on the street or end up becoming the prime minister; we all suffer: our families disown us, beat us up. It’s the same for me. I worked really hard to be where I am – worked at parlours, did odd jobs, but refused to beg or dance. I wanted to make a name for myself and eventually for my community.”