Transgender protection bill advances in Pakistan

Pakistan’s National Assembly this week approved a bill to provide sweeping protections for trans people against harassment and discrimination.

National Assembly of Pakistan (Photo courtesy of the Pakistan Observer)
National Assembly of Pakistan (Photo courtesy of the Pakistan Observer)

The bill, which now has passed both the National Assembly and the Senate, next goes to the President.

Taimur Kamal, coordinator of the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (Photo courtesy of Front Line Defenders)
Taimur Kamal, coordinator of the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network, and other activists were attacked in his car in December 2017. (Photo courtesy of Front Line Defenders)

The legislative active comes in the wake of a series of violent attacks against trans activists in the Peshawar area of Pakistan. (See “Pakistani trans activists under attack: kidnapped, raped, shot.”)

Provisions of the trans protection bill include:

  • The right for trans people to change their gender in government records.
  • The right to obtain driver’s licenses and passports under their official name and gender.
  • Prohibition of harassment inside and outside of their homes.
  • Protection against discrimination by “educational institutions, employers, in trade and health services, and when using public transport and buying or selling or renting property.”
  • A government-established safe house for transgender people where they will have access to medical and educational facilities and psychological counseling.
  • Separate cells in jails for trans detainees.
  • The right to inherit property.
  • Employment assistance. “The government will take steps to ensure employment opportunities for transgenders,” the Pakistan Observer reports.
  • The right to vote and to run for elected offices. “They will have the right to vote in all national, provincial and local government elections and they will not be discriminated against in their pursuit of a public office.”
  • Protection against being forced to become a beggar. “Anyone found guilty of forcing a transgender person to beg will be sentenced to six months in prison and served a fine of Rs50,000 [about US $432].”

Bustle.com reported:

“At the moment, the fate of the landmark bill depends on whether Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, approves and signs it into law. Still, even if Hussain green-lights the bill, the timeline for when the law takes effect across the country is unclear. “

The Pakistan Observer reported:

[National Assembly] passes Transgender Persons Protection of Rights Bill 2018

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 aimed at ensuring rights of transgender persons with majority vote by rejecting amendments proposed by JUI-F lawmaker Naeema Kishwer Khan.

Mamnoon Hussain, president of Pakistan (Official photo)
Mamnoon Hussain, president of Pakistan, will decide the fate of the Trans Protection Bill. (Official photo)

Syed Naveed Qamar of Pakistan People Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) piloted the bill to provide for protection, relief and rehabilitation of rights of the transgender persons and their welfare and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto [ the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 in the House.

Opposing the bill, JUI-F lawmaker Naeema Kishwer said the bill should be referred to the standing committee for detailed deliberation. She moved a motion and amendments to refer the bill to Council of Islamic Ideology and the standing committee.

Mover of the bill, Syed Naveed Qamar said that detailed discussions were carried out on the bill the standing committee of the Senate and requested the House to pass the bill. Ayesha Sayyad of Jamaat-i-Islami also opposed the bill and maintained that the bill should be referred to the standing committee.

Under the proposed law, the Transgender persons will be able to register to obtain a driver’s licence and passport. They will have the option to get their gender changed in National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) records.

Harassment of transgenders will also be prohibited in and outside their homes. They will not be discriminated against by educational institutions, employers, in trade and health services, and when using public transport and buying or selling or renting property.

The government will establish a safe house for transgenders and provide them medical and educational facilities and psychological counselling. Separate rooms will be established at jails where transgenders could be detained.

In addition to all basic rights, they will be entitled to inherit property. The government will take steps to ensure employment opportunities for transgenders and they will have the right to vote in all national, provincial and local government elections and they will not be discriminated against in their pursuit of a public office.

Anyone found guilty of forcing a transgender person to beg will be sentenced to six months in prison and served a fine of Rs50,000. The Senate has already passed the bill.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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