Marvia Malik, 21, made history earlier this year by becoming the first transgender newscaster in Pakistan, a conservative Muslim country not known for its embrace of gender minorities.
Malik is the face of the evening news on the Kohenoor network in her native Lahore, Pakistan’s second most populous city. She said she has been received with open arms at the network.
“I cannot express the love and respect I have received here since I began work,” Malik said in an interview earlier this year. “I have not felt any discrimination.”
Her road to Kohenoor News, however, has not been easy. Malik said, like many trans people in Pakistan, she had a difficult childhood: She was bullied in school and then kicked out of her house when she graduated high school.
“My family wasn’t accepting of me, and because of that, things got difficult,” Malik told NBC News. “There was no financial support either. “
“In our society, problems for transgender folks usually start at home, with the family,” she explained. “The family often thinks that their child is a source of insult for them, and their child is no good. First comes the day-to-day cruelty, and eventually, many of us are thrown out.”
In addition to her work as a newscaster, Malik is also focused on expanding rights for Pakistan’s transgender community.
“Transgender people in Pakistan can no longer live the way they’ve been used to living,” Malik said. “We have rights, too, to live. The change which is coming will keep on coming, and hopefully bring more acceptance and tolerance.”
Malik said she’s currently involved with getting Pakistan’s Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act passed. The bill would, among other things, prohibit discrimination against trans people at school, in work, on public transit and in health care settings, and allow them to have their gender identity recognized on official documents. Pakistan’s parliament passed the bill in May, and it will go into effect if signed by Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain.
“It doesn’t matter how dark it gets, eventually there is a dawn,” Malik said. “It doesn’t matter how much are rights are suppressed. The more we are pushed down, the more we will rise. These are our rights. We will fight for them.”
And Malik vowed to keep fighting until the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act is implemented.
“We will not stop,” she said. “A regular man or woman has gotten their rights, why not us? We are Pakistanis. We are humans.”