Call for proactive approach to resolve issues of transgenders

Our Correspondent
September 30, 2022

Islamabad : The Transgender Persons Act, 2018, has stimulated a debate not only on the conceptual and definitional aspects of the issue but also on its procedural anomalies. The Act clearly defies...

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Islamabad : The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, has stimulated a debate not only on the conceptual and definitional aspects of the issue but also on its procedural anomalies. The Act clearly defies Islamic values and cultural norms of Pakistan in its letter and spirit. The need for a law, however, should not be undermined for the protection of persons who are either intersex or experience gender identity disorder. A proactive approach should be adopted to resolve those issues and ambiguities.

These views were made by panellists of a consultative meeting on ‘The Rights of Gender-Variant Persons’ held at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) here.

The event moderated by IPS senior research officer Nadeem Farhat Geelani had neurologist Dr Talha Saad as the key speaker and IPS chairman Khalid Rahman, former ambassador Safdar Hayat, former secretary Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, petitioners at the Federal Shariat Court Hammad Hussain Butt and Muhammad bin Sajid, research assistants Tahir Shah and Irfan Fazil from the research wing of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Dr Saima Esma, NUML professor Dr Shagufta Omar, IIUI assistant professor Shoaib Madni, director of the Shaoor Media Network Abida Farheen, chairperson of the Working Women Welfare Trust Dr Abdullah Fazi, lecturer of the Curtin University, Malaysia Talha Imran and Maryam Khan of the Istanbul Zaim University.

The meeting was part of consultations that IPS is holding around the issue and in which experts from the legal, medical, psychological, and social sectors, including gender-variant persons, have already shared their inputs.

Mr Khalid highlighted the importance of the right legislation that ensures the protection of true gender-variant people in Pakistan in order to deal with the issues. He said this needs to be supported by building a narrative that is drawn from domestic realities and helps bridge the gap between polarised opinions.

In addition to building a logical narrative, the knowledgeable religious faction of Pakistan also needs to be included in the consultative processes for legislation so that they can effectively respond to the narratives that may harm the very fabric of society, he emphasized.

Dr Talha Saad noted that those who are born with any ambiguities regarding their sexual organs are a rarity and the modern advancements in medical science have not only made it possible to determine their gender but also adjust it through certain procedures as and when required. The rights of such persons should not suffer in any case. Those who perceive themselves differently than what they actually are can be treated therapeutically. In most cases, psychological counselling or therapy helps such persons reconcile with their nature. Only a small fraction of 0.5 per cent may still suffer a disorder in which the behaviour of a person does not conform to his physical development.

Those participating in the consultation stressed the role of medical research in finding solutions for the small 0.5 per cent minority of people having gender identity disorders, while Muslim experts need to devise solutions that synchronise with Islamic values and cultural expectations.

The participants highlighted that the transgender issue in Pakistan is multi-dimensional and no aspect of the debate should be ignored. They recommended that all institutions concerned come forward to contribute to the process to address the lacunas of the present legislation and overall understanding.

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