Karachi’s transgender community has rubbished criticism of the Transgender Persons Protection Act 2018 as a misinformation campaign.
Speaking at a news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Friday, representatives of the community said the campaign had led to increased violence and threatened to alter the law in unacceptable ways. They sought help with amplifying their voices and protecting themselves from those who wanted to undermine their fundamental rights.
Transgender activist Shahzadi Rai said that as per the act they will be assigned gender X on their national identity cards, and after having assigned gender X they cannot get married legally, as according to the Pakistani law only males and females can marry.
There’s a demand for a medical board from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq in the amended bill in the Senate. She said that as per the amended bill the medical board should comprise a professor doctor, one male surgeon, one psychologist, one female general surgeon, one psychologist, and one chief medical officer, and there is also a demand for one Muslim clergyman in the board as well. “Isn’t this injustice with khawaja sira?” she said, adding that never did a man or a woman feel a need for a medical certificate to prove their sexual identity to the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra). “This is political propaganda,” she said.
Rai said the religious clergy misunderstood this bill, and when she explained it to them they were confused. They misunderstood it as a bid to promote homosexuality, but the bill does not even have the word marriage or homosexuality, he said, adding that the bill only talks about assigning gender X and it is mentioned that the gender X cannot get married. She explained that there are more than 30 kinds of intersex people and there’s only one qualified doctor who understands these types. “How can that doctor cover the entire transsexual community?”
The activist said the JI senator said the bill was against Islam, and on social media the transsexual community was being labelled as promoters of same sex marriages. Just a few weeks ago, she said, members of their community were killed and attacked. “If I am a transgender, I will prove it or a medical board,” she stressed, adding that their struggle had gone 20 years behind.
She said that they convinced the society that they also had their legal rights. Allegations against the bill, she said, were a question of their existence. “Doesn’t the JI see this?” she asked.
Rai asked if the Pakistani community had enough funds to get all transgender community tested. She said they would only be ready to appear before the medical board if this condition applies to all males and females of the country. “Our parliamentarians should appear before the medical board first to determine their sexual identity,” she said.
Another activist Bindiya Rani said that the transgender community is even deprived of medical facilities and they are forced into beggary. She asked when 75 transgender persons were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where all those who were criticising the bill that empowered them had been. She asked the critics to sit with them at one table on the issue.