LAHORE – Nadeem Kashish, the president of the Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights, has called for an end to the culture of “gurus”, the leaders of transgender groups who take unwanted children into their care.

Abundantly prevalent in the hijra community, the guru concept stipulates that transgender units are run by a leader, who fosters unwanted children after they’re thrown out by their families. The guru keeps these kids in their care, guides them in life, and provides food and shelter.

Nadeem says that, far from acting as guardians, the gurus encourage young transgender people to take up sex work. “We must eliminate the culture of handing over transgenders to gurus in childhood,” said Kashish. “They sexually abuse them and compel them to beg on the streets.”

“I will run an awareness campaign asking parents not to hand over their child to gurus,” they added.

Kashish explained that most transgenders desire gender reassignment processes, and suggested that it should be banned.

Talking to Daily Pakistan Global, Executive Director Subrang society, Kami Choudhry who recently made waves on broader horizons by coming out as Pakistan’s first transgender model, stated that the guru culture is the need of the socially marginalised community that suffers from illiteracy and ‘ownership’ crisis.

Kami Choudhry (Photo courtesy: Sven Normann, Amsterdam)

“These are the people who are disowned by their biological parents, never get an opportunity to get educated or come into the mainstream,” Kami told Daily Pakistan Global, adding it would be disastrous as well as foolish to disrupt the guru culture which serves as an umbrella to the oppressed minority of transgender.

Most of the Pakistani transgender people, numbering approximately 500,000, rely on wedding dances as their main source of income.

She further commented that there are black sheep in every community and the whole community can’t be generalised because of a minority.

“Quantitatively fewer evil elements should be addressed without harming the positive elements which are the only support and backbone of these ‘vagrant’ people,” Kami said, while adding that many transgenders are not forced into prostitution, but resort to it out of compulsion in the face of extreme destitution.

“Gurus don’t kidnap these transgenders and coerce them to take the sex work, it’s mostly their own choice.”

Lashing out at Nadeem’s demands, Kami said Nadeem himself is a ‘breed’ of gurus and is now making unnecessary demands. “How dare he suggest that all gurus are involved in this iniquitous act, he is clearly wrong and illogical in his approach.”

Kami said that banning Guru custom is akin to snatching transgender community’s rights. “If you want to get rid of prostitution, provide better opportunities and education for them rather than rebuking them for opting for their only option for survival,” Kami added.

A guru in Punjab argued that they brought up unwanted kids as their own, cherished them, and assisted them in standing on their own feet. Another noted that their leader offered them love, something they were refused by their biological parents.