Pakistan's first transgender lawyer

Nisha Rao strides confidently into Karachi's city courts.

She's one of the many lawyers working in Pakistan's largest city.

But Rao is unique in her own right - she's the country's first transgender lawyer.

And has fought against the odds to get to where she is.

Now she wants to help her community in court.

"I deal mostly with harassment cases both for women and transgender people. So far, I have appeared in court in more than fifty cases. I have represented more than twenty transgenders and got relief for them."

Rao never felt like she fitted in when she was young and ran away from her middle class home in Lahore at the age of 18.

When she arrived in Karachi, the transgender community with which she sought refuge advised her to beg on the street or become a sex worker to survive.

Rao did beg, and used the money to pay for evening classes, earning her law degree earlier this year after years of study.

"I faced many problems during my law education. I did not have money for books and college fees so I had to beg at traffic signals on the streets during daytime and take classes in the evening.."

According to a 2017 census, there are more than 10,000 transgender people living in Pakistan, though rights groups put the number much higher.

They often face persecution despite a law passed in 2018 granting them special status with equal rights to other citizens.

As for Rao she has even bigger aspirations than being an attorney.

Her goal is now to become the country's first transgender judge.

Video Transcript

- Nisha Rao strides confidently into Karachi's city courts. She's one of many lawyers working in Pakistan's largest city.

But Rao is unique in her own right. She's the country's first transgender lawyer and has fought against the odds to get to where she is. Now she wants to help her community in court.

NISHA RAO: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: I deal mostly with harassment cases for both women and transgender people. So far, I've appeared in court in more than 50 cases. I've represented more than 20 transgenders and got relief for them.

- Rao never felt like she fitted in when she was young and ran away from her middle class home in Lahore at the age of 18. When she arrived in Karachi, the transgender community with which she sought refuge advised her to beg on the street or become a sex worker to survive. Rao did beg and used the money to pay for evening classes, earning her law degree earlier this year after years of study.

NISHA RAO: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: I faced many problems during my law education. I did not have money for books and college fees. So I had to beg at traffic signals on the streets during the daytime and take classes in the evening.

- According to a 2017 census, there are more than 10,000 transgender people living in Pakistan. Their rights groups put the number much higher. They often face persecution despite a law passed in 2018 granting them special status of equal rights to other citizens.

As for Rao, she has even bigger aspirations than being an attorney. Her goal is now to become Pakistan's first transgender judge.