Unequal citizens of Pakistan

From Herald:

Transgenders-575-by-300“It took the government over 60 years to accept us as humans and that too only after the Supreme Court (SC) passed the order that we should be registered as khwaja siras,” says Bindiya Rana, the president of the Gender Interactive Alliance, a non-government organisation working for the rights and uplift of the transgender community. She is happy with the SC order but says more needs to be done. “At least the judiciary is listening and doing its bit, but we have yet to see the government come forward without the SC nudging it,” she tells the Herald. “So far, only directions are being issued.” Khwaja siras, as they are now called in the official parlance (see Identity Crisis), have long been one of the most marginalised communities in South Asia. Although there is no specific data about their numbers, estimates suggest that Pakistan has a population of around 800,000 transgender people. “You might say that it is an overestimate but many members of our community have been registered as male or female in the national identity database. Now that the SC has issued a directive for us to be registered as khwaja siras, a better picture will emerge,” Rana explains.

The SC’s directive was issued after a 2009 petition filed by advocate Dr Mohammad Aslam Khaki and this after an incident in Taxila where policemen maltreated and sexually abused transgender persons returning from a wedding. “The Taxila incident motivated me to speak for transgender people. They are as human as us and, according to the Constitution, the state has a duty to protect its citizens regardless of their gender,” says Khaki. The SC agrees. A judgement issued on March 22, 2011 states, “Their rights, obligations including right to life and dignity are equally protected … The government functionaries both at federal and provincial levels are bound to provide them protection of life and property and secure their dignity as well, as is done in case of other citizens.” In addition to ordering the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to register transgenders as the third sex, the court has asked provincial social welfare departments to work for the community’s support and development.

More here.