Pakistan’s transgender community has been guaranteed their basic human rights, after the monumental Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday.
The move comes after a trans woman was fatally shot in early May this year due to a minute misunderstanding over providing smaller change for a 1,000 rupee note. In 2016, another trans woman died after being shot several times; not before being berated by medical staff at the hospital who could not decide whether to place her in the men’s or women’s ward.
The bill, which is currently awaiting the president’s signature before becoming law, will finally allow transgender Pakistanis to pick their gender and have it recognised on official documents. The legislation also made to sure to put in place necessary prohibitions, such as banning public discrimination against transgender people.
Further provisions focused on advancing the rights of those in the trans community include ameliorating education and mental health services.
“in fighting for this bill, we were not fighting for those transgender people who have already lived 40 or 50 years … we have been fighting for the next generation of transgender Pakistanis.”
Figures from Pakistani transgender rights group, Trans Action, have revealed that approximately 500,000 people identify as transgender in Pakistan; while the nation’s 2017 census indicated a much lower number of just over 10,000, much to the indignation of the trans community. Pakistan’s total population is 207 million.
The bill has gained a large amount of support for widening the definition of ‘transgender’ to three definitions and removing its ambiguity. Though, it was also initially met with some criticism from the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam- Fazal group (JUI-F), who argued that the bill supported clauses that contradicted teachings of Islam. However, those working on the bill ensured that all of its provisions were in line with Islam’s principles.
Transgender activists, such as Bindiya Rana, are elated at the decision; “in fighting for this bill, we were not fighting for those transgender people who have already lived 40 or 50 years,” she said. “We have been fighting for the next generation of transgender Pakistanis.”
Rana’s statements resonate with the trans community, who have often found themselves vulnerable and at risk of being forced into the sex industry and begging. The legislation will now impose fines and prison sentences on those who force transgender men and women into begging.
While the legislation does not address the rights of Pakistan’s gay and lesbian community, it is a step in the right direction for those who have fought to be recognised for so long.Asia, International Human Rights / Humanitarian Law, LGBTI International