Marvia Malik is a news presenter on the Lahore-based Kohenoor TV. Reading the daily bulletin, she has today become a household name and face. Hailing from humble origins, her intersectional background in a conservative nation meant her career was an incessant strife. It’s a subject of wonder, intrigue and inspiration for her ascendancy to the status of a top-tier news presenter with a prime news channel, a much-wanton post, setting a precedent for the subcontinent.
Debuting as a newsreader in 2018, Marvia Malik, a prominent media figure and the President of the Khwaja Sira Society, an association of transgenders, has since carved out a distinguished niche for herself.
A fierce and vocal critic of this banal ordinal gimmick, in favour of the term ‘Khwaja’, that is Officer, (alluding to the coveted designation enjoyed by transgenders during the Mughal Period, particularly in the Harem) she advocates mainstream augmentation using dialectical and conversational normalisation.
After forsaking her home, she sought refuge with other trans women. She was determined to pursue and practise either law or journalism, throughout her life.
When young, Malik was severely bullied by her classmates at school, but managed to matriculate. She became estranged from her family later on. After forsaking her home, she sought refuge with other trans women. She was determined to pursue and practise either law or journalism, throughout her life.
Born in 1997 in Lahore, her career albeit full of impediments, was illustrious and unexpectedly progressive and vibrant, a testimony to her tantalising conviction and motive in face of adversity. She worked as a makeup artist in order to fund her higher studies, before graduating with a degree in mass-media from Punjab University. She then applied for a position at Kohenoor News, and following 3 months of training, became a newsreader aged just 21, in spite of all the precarious hurdles, encountered in her tumultuous life. In March 2018, Malik became the first openly transgender person to occupy the role of newsreader on a Pakistani news broadcast. This incidence attracted sizeable media attention. She has also walked the ramp for the Pakistan Fashion Design Council fashion week in Lahore, the Express Tribune reports. She also crusades for trans persons’ property rights in Pakistan. She is also canvassing for reservation for trans persons in employment, and in Parliament.
Talking to the BBC, Malik stated that “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.”
She added, “My family knows I have modelled and they know that I work as a newscaster. It’s the age of social media and there’s nothing that my family doesn’t know. But they have still disowned me.”
“I was thrown out after (10th grade) after which I joined a beauty salon, earned just about enough to put myself through college, but it was not easy. My story is no different from that of a hijra (subcontinental umbrella-word for eunuchs, intersex, and transgenders) on the street you see begging”, she told the Thomson-Reuters Foundation.
Marvia was determined, soon after realising her non-binary sexuality, that she would not end up in the stereotypically prescribed or rather relegated odd jobs, salient of others oriented as her, but carve out a niche in either law or journalism earned by her merit, not sympathy.
The Dawn quoted her as saying “I have several modelling offers that I’m considering, but I want to do something for my community that I feel is way behind. So I want to strengthen my people. Everywhere we go, a transgender person is looked down upon. But there’s nothing we can’t do; we’re educated, have degrees, but no opportunities, no encouragement. This is what I want to change. Just as I created history in the fashion industry, I want to do the same in the media industry.”
The story of every transgender 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.
She also commented, “The story of every transgender 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 (eventually becoming a trained make-up artist), did odd jobs, but refused to beg or dance. I wanted to make a name for myself and eventually for my community. My family only helped me till my matriculation, but I supported myself for intermediate and graduation.”
She also voices collective grievance and dissatisfaction of the community against phoney authorities. “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.”
The owner of Kohenoor, Junaid Ansari, clarified on VOA news that Ms Malik had been selected on basis of merit, not on gender issues or categorical criterion. In March 2018, Pakistan’s Senate voted to support a bill protecting the rights of transgender people, and allowing them to determine their own gender identity. Pakistan has been bending rules to make the society more inclusive of genders, for the past few years, including the landmark introduction of a Gender ‘X’ on driving licenses.
In the words of Marvia Malik, “Our society treats transgender people shamefully, degrading them, denying them jobs, laughing at them and taunting them. I want to change that.”
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