“I have to do this, Mother, I’m a tax inspector.”
In Pakistan, transgender people are a cause of great embarrassment to much of the population. They are part of a third gender called hijra, and are the subject of great discrimination and derision. They are often forced to work as wedding dancers, sex workers, or as mentioned in QI, tax collectors. They are harassed, abused and intimidated by both their fellows and the police.
There is a strong tradition of tax evasion in Pakistan, and the government is constantly seeking new ways of forcing or convincing people to pay their tax bills. In this case, a group of transgender women are sent round to the offending shopkeep who is told to cough up or else. The ‘or else’ generally leads to the women singing and dancing around the shop, causing great embarrassment for the shop owner. This, presumably, ensures the swift payment of the tax bill for fear of more embarrassment.
While this is all very interesting, I think QI makes light of a very serious situation. It was only last year that improvements were made in government legislation in Pakistan which discouraged discrimination and ensured that hijras enjoyed the same rights as other Pakistanis in inheritance, employment and election registration. The Guardian covered the story here.
You can watch the QI clip above (the specific segment is from 2:45 – 5:30). I’d love to hear what you all think of this; please leave your comments below!