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Rights of transgender citizens
Updated:Sep 5, 2017
 
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An upgrade in National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA)’s policy will now allow transgender people who have no information about their parents to obtain Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC). We welcome the development and hope that it will help ease the miseries of the community that has been a victim of persecution and discrimination across the country. NADRA’s decision is in line with an earlier verdict of Supreme Court that ordered the government to make arrangements for issuance of CNICs to transgender people.
 
Some significant steps have been taken in the past few years with regard to constitutionally guaranteed rights of the transgender population of Pakistan. The Supreme Court verdict of 2009 that conferred rights like inheritance, issuance of a CNIC and entitlement to jobs, along with protection from police harassment was a breath of fresh air. It was lauded by major international rights groups as a milestone in protecting rights of transgender people as equal citizens.
 
More recently, two bills were tabled in National Assembly for the protection of the rights of the transgender community. A private members bill tabled by JUI-F MNA Naeema Khan suggested amendments to Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to offer a wide definition of the term ‘transgender persons’, encompassing “any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the society norms and cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at the time of their birth”. Another Bill presented in the Assembly aims at ensuring ‘measures such as the official recognition of an individual’s gender identity as they perceive it, the prohibition of harassment of or discrimination against transgender individuals in any walk of life’. It is encouraging that lawmakers are now introducing bills on the issue of discrimination against transgender people — something that was not seen in Pakistan before.
 
However, much remains to be done until these bills will eventually get enacted as laws to be enforced by different executive agencies. That will be the real test of the state’s commitment to upholding constitutional rights of the community.
 
The successful implementation of the aforementioned measures may not be possible without sensitisation of officials concerned — whether in NADRA or in law enforcement agencies.
 
Last but not the least; the government needs to evolve a plan for providing livelihood opportunities to transgender people. This will ensure positive change in socio-economic conditions of the community and can serve as a step towards ending social discrimination.
 
 
 
 
 
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