The transgender community is the most oppressed social sect in Pakistan. Forced to beg, they are deprived of the opportunity to work and be productive for the country and made victims of discrimination. On Wednesday, the Senate and National Assembly of Pakistan passed a bill which, after a lot of controversy, finally gave the transgender sect of Pakistan their due rights. The bill was presented by Senator Dr. Karim Khawaja.
The Transgender (Protection of Rights) Bill was under controversy since 2017, if becomes a law, it will enable the transgender to be recognized as they want and register themselves under the government. This will enable them to get identified as their own preferred gender and not have their gender be decided by a medical board. The propositions in the bill include:
- Transgenders will be able to obtain their own driving licenses and passports. They can get their gender changed in the NADRA records.
- Harassment of transgenders will be prohibited in and outside their homes.
- They will not be discriminated against by educational institutions, employers, in trade and health services, and when using public transport and buying or selling or renting property. They will also not be dismissed because of their gender identity. In case of discrimination, the institutions can fined Rs. 300,000 and 6 months in prison. Unlawful eviction shall be punishable with six months to 2 years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 100,000.
- The government will establish a safe house for transgenders and provide them medical and educational facilities and psychological counselling.
- Separate rooms will be established in jails where transgenders could be detained.
- Law enforcement agencies will be required to act in any untoward incident against them.
- Transgenders will be provided loans to start businesses on easy conditions.
- In addition to all basic rights, they will be entitled to inherit property. Depriving them of inheritance can lead to a 5 or 10 year imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 million or both.
- The government will take steps to ensure employment opportunities for transgenders.
- Transgenders will have the right to vote in all national, provincial and local government elections and they will not be discriminated against in their pursuit of a public office.
- They will have the right to assemble and access to public entertainment and sports.
- Anyone found guilty of forcing a transgender to beg will be sentenced to six months in prison extendable up to 25 years and served a fine of Rs. 50,000.
- Rape of a transgender will be punishable with death or imprisonment up to 25 years.
However, flaws are also present in this bill. It will allow ‘castration’ that is, changing one’s gender to become a transgender, which is strictly prohibited . It was suggested to establish a medical board which would evaluate the authenticity of a person.
The bill is a huge step forward for equity, justice and abolishing gender discrimination in Pakistan. The part of society that was once oppressed, will now be able to stand up and be productive for Pakistan, moving us in a new era of peace and harmony.