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Pakistani trans activists to appeal Sharia court ruling against law to protect them

Transgender activists in Pakistan have said they plan to appeal to the country’s highest court against a ruling by an Islamic court that strikes down a law aimed at protecting their rights.

The Transgender People (Protection of Rights) Act was passed by Parliament in 2018 to secure the basic rights of transgender Pakistanis. It guarantees their access to legal gender recognition, among other rights.

Many Pakistanis have strong beliefs about gender and sexuality and transgender people are often seen as outcasts. Some are forced to beg, dance and even prostitute themselves to earn money. They also live in fear of attacks.

On Friday, the Federal Sharia Court struck down several provisions of the landmark law, calling them “un-Islamic”.

It ruled that a person cannot change sex on the basis of “innermost feeling” or “self-perceived identity” and must conform to the biological sex assigned to them at time of birth.

The Sharia Court has a constitutional mandate to review and determine whether laws passed by Pakistan’s parliament are in accordance with Islamic doctrine.

A dozen activists demonstrated in the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday against the decision.

Members of Pakistan’s transgender community are considering appealing a ruling by an Islamic court that struck down a law aimed at protecting their rights.Farid Khan/AP

Lawyer Sara Malkani, speaking at an event organized by the Gender Interactive Alliance, denied that the legislation was anti-Islamic. She said the existence of two genders does not limit the concept of gender identity and that Islamic texts, including the Quran, do not associate specific behavior with specific genders.

“We absolutely intend to appeal the tribunal’s findings to the Supreme Court, and we will prevail,” Nayyab Ali, executive director of Transgender Rights Consultants Pakistan, said at a press conference on Friday.

Ali said the transgender community was “mourning the decimation” of Pakistan’s first legislation to protect transgender rights in response to the Islamic court ruling.

However, clerics and representatives of religious parties say the law has the potential to promote homosexuality in the conservative Muslim-majority country. They want the Islamic court to overturn the law.

The Sharia court ruled that the term “transgender” as used in the law creates confusion. It covers several biological variations, including intersex, transgender men, transgender women, and Khawaja Sira, a commonly used Pakistani term for those who were born male but identify as female.

He also rejected a clause in the law in which the country’s national database and registration authority allows a person’s biological sex to be changed from the one they were assigned at birth in the documents. identification, including driver’s licenses and passports.

He said allowing anyone to change their gender based on their inner feeling or perceived identity would create “serious religious, legal and social problems”.

For example, it will allow a transgender woman – someone who is biologically male – to access women’s social and religious gatherings or female-only public places, and vice versa, he said.

“This law will pave the way for criminals in society to easily commit crimes such as sexual assault, sexual assault and even rape against women who are disguised as transgender women,” the court said.

However, the court said that Islamic law recognizes the existence of intersex people and eunuchs and said they should be entitled to all basic rights granted to Pakistanis in the constitution.

Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission has expressed dismay at the “regressive decision” and said the denial of the rights of transgender people to self-perceived gender identity is aimed at “the erasure of a whole demographic group and their fundamental rights”. He said the cancellation of the transgender bill would lead to further marginalization and abuse of an already vulnerable community in Pakistan.

Amnesty International has called on the government to stop all attempts to prevent transgender people from obtaining official documents reflecting their gender identity without complying with abusive and intrusive requirements.

“This verdict is a blow to the rights of the already beleaguered group of transgender and gender diverse people in Pakistan,” Rehab Mahamoor, research assistant at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

She said any action to deny transgender and gender diverse people the right to determine their own gender identity would violate international human rights law.

Sana, 40, a eunuch from Rawalpindi who asked to be identified by a single name, told The Associated Press on Saturday that she favored the court’s decision because a large number of gay people were included in her community of eunuchs “of origin and birth”. .

She alleged that those who become transgender men through surgical castration are “denying the rights” of her community by affecting their access to employment opportunities under the government jobs quota reserved for their community.


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