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Why Pakistan’s Transgender Person Protection Act is Facing Backlash?

Transgender Person Protection Act in Pakistan has been facing backlash from various religious groups for being a gateway to homosexuality. Critics of the law even took the matter to the Federal Shariah Court (FSC), claiming that some of its parts were against the principles of Islam. The National Assembly enacted the landmark law in 2018 to protect the legal rights of transgender people and make discrimination against them punishable. However, the opposers have started discussing it after 4-years with support from major political parties.

What Does the Transgender Person Protection Act (2018) Say?

Transgender Person Protection Act defines the term ‘transgender’ as Intersex, Eunuch, and people with a gender identity different from “social norms and cultural expectations” based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Sections 1 and 2 contain the title of the law and the definitions of the words, respectively. The main opposition is with Section 3, where the gender identity part is further elaborated. It says people have a right to change their gender on national documents (CNIC, driving license, passport, etc.) based on self-perceived identity. Opposers have taken issue with the “self-perceived” part, saying it is discreetly legalizing same-sex marriages. Claiming that more than 28,000 Pakistanis have applied for gender change in NADRA since the enactment of this law, religious groups have been pressurizing the Parliament to make amendments to the 2018 Act. Chairman of Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) Pakistan, Allama Raja Nasir, also shared on social media that there were fears in the religious community regarding the misuse of this provision.

Counter Argument

The transgender community and their supporters are fighting back against the criticism of this law. Many have been sharing how this law protects their rights and allows them to enjoy the same benefits as the rest of society. They called the criticism baseless and malicious propaganda to spread hate and fear against trans persons. The law provides them fundamental rights to health, education, employment, political participation, access to public spaces and much more. Many supporters argued that no sensible and educated group would want to take such rights away from a person. Lawyer and activist Reema Omer further explained how the law recognized transgender people as equal citizens and gave them the legal right to live with dignity. She also shared excerpts from The Gazette of Pakistan 2021, highlighting that changed gender is denoted by X on identification documents. Moreover, people with X on ID cards cannot marry, so linking Transgender Person Protection Act with homosexuality or same-sex marriage is invalid.

Violence Against Transgender Community

Besides the powerful opposition to Transgender Person Protection Act, the violence against this marginalized community has increased tenfold in recent years. One horrible example is Mano from Peshawar, whose ex-lover killed her back in April. Sanaullah owed her money, and he shot her dead when she went to collect. Mano’s family refused to accept her dead body because she was a trans woman. It seems that when people change their gender, they cease to be human. According to reports, around 68 trans persons have been killed, and 1500 have faced sexual assaults since 2015. A report by Amnesty International in 2019 revealed that an 18-year-old trans journalist Shama was raped by 9 men in Peshawar. Last year, Male to Female transgender Dr Mehrub Moiz highlighted the acts of organized violence by a gang called Beela, dedicated to making trans lives further miserable. About 400 gangsters attacked a birthday party and tried to gang-rape Moiz. This is why there are laws to protect the rights of transgender people so society can accept them and ultimately help decrease violence against them.

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