Transgender people often have trouble finding adequate employment — they face discrimination both in hiring and in the workplace. So it’s exciting progress when a government in any country takes steps to help employ its transgender citizens.

But in Pakistan, where transgender people are used as tax collectors, should we be rejoicing or not? And the answer, it sure seems, is a resounding no.

A division of the Pakistani government is using transgender women to embarrass people who don’t pay their taxes, since much of Pakistan views transgender women as an embarrassment. The Clifton Cantonment Board is hiring transgender women to collect taxes in the hope that the embarrassment of their presence will pressure people to pay their taxes.

In a place where less than 1% of the population pays taxes, it’s clear that finding a new way of collecting taxes is necessary. The low revenue from taxes results puts Pakistan in serious financial trouble, resulting in substandard government services and large debt to other countries. But how could using transgender women be a good solution? After all, the success of this program is contingent on the poor social stigma of transgender women.

While in theory it’s good that transgender women in Pakistan are finding employment through this program, it ultimately is no help to the transgender population. The Clifton Cantonment Board is essentially using the poor social status of transgender people to their advantage, doing nothing to help eliminate the social stigma associated with being transgender. The employment of transgender women as tax collectors does nothing to combat people’s views about transgender women. Rather, it relies on them keeping their prejudices and paying up because of their negative views.

And that’s absolutely nothing to celebrate.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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