30 Apr 2013 12:00
"Lubna Lal is one of Pakistan’s first transgender electoral candidates, who will be running in upcoming national and regional elections.
Commonly known as Madame Lal, Lubna Lal has won considerable support from her community in the Punjab province of Jhelum. Ironically, the city is known for providing a large number of soldiers to the British and later to the Pakistan armed forces, making it known as a city of soldiers, or a land of martyrs and warriors. However, it is a former wedding dancer that has put the region back on the map.
Pakistan has an estimated 500,000 “eunuchs” - meaning homosexuals, transexuals, transvestities and castrated men. Many of these individuals resort to lives of prostitution, begging, or work as wedding dancers to support themselves.
Previously ridiculed and shunned from society, it took a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2011 to allow transgendered people to not only vote, but also to stand as candidates. Since the campaign began, seven transgendered candidates have registered their interests, though only two remain in contention.
Lubna Lal was only 15 when she left her home, and now vows to not only stand for the transgendered community, but for everyone living in poverty. “I want to help poor people and improve education, health services, and sewerage. The poor people of this area are happy I am standing.”