EDITORIAL: When Parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, it was widely hailed as a progressive law for recognising that these people have needs and rights like regular people. But some have remained insistent on declaring them non-persons, challenging the law in the Federal Shariat Court (FSC), purportedly, for being against Islamic values. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has termed some sections of the law to be against Islamic tenets and JUI-F has challenged the law in courts.
However, what is most astounding is that PTI Senator, Fawzia Arshad, has moved a bill in the upper house seeking several retrogressive amendments to the law, including redefining of “gender expression” and “gender identity” that allow transsexual persons to self-identify their gender, as well as removal of the sections that say “a transgender person already issued an identity card by Nadra shall be allowed to change the name and gender according to his or her self-perceived identity” on the national identity card, Child Registration Certificate, driving licence and passport in accordance with the provisions of the Nadra Ordinance, 2000.
Change is also proposed to sections 7 and 8 of the law pertaining to the share in inheritance and the right to education. It is rather surprising that these proposals should come from a legislator belonging to the PTI, which had had set up the country’s first transgender protection centre in Islamabad to provide shelter and career counselling services to transsexual people.
Also, the party’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had promised them two percent job quota as well as allocating five percent scholarships for higher education and one percent seats in schools and vocational institutions. The senator goes on to claim that the law did not conform to Sharia rules, as some petitioners have been arguing before the FSC. She seems to subscribe to the viewpoint of Jamaat-i-Islami which had opposed the initial bill, suggesting that a medical board decide who needed a gender change rather than leaving to individuals to self-identify their gender.
In so arguing opponents of the law refuse to recognise the fact that these people belong to the third gender not out of choice but because that is how the nature made them. They are the way they are because of differences – from males and females – in their sex chromosomes. That does not make them any lesser being than those who fit into the category of male or female.
In fact, some of the best known designers in the fashion industry and Hollywood actors were, and are, transgender. There surely are many others in various fields who do not come out for fear of ostracisation.
Unfortunately, in this country transgender individuals in general face discrimination at every level. They are disowned by their families, denied share in inherited property, mistreated and mocked by society. Attempts to keep them marginalised must stop. It is hoped the unfair amendments to the transgender rights protection law will be rejected, and those belonging to the third sex will continue to have the right to self-identify their gender, and order their lives as equal citizens.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022