The transgender community in Pakistan has struggled and fought for inclusion in society for decades, and their fight for equal rights continues till date. Members of the transgender community recently filed a petition in the Peshawar High Court, urging the federal government for the creation of a third column on the national census to recognise sexes that do not fall in the category of ‘male’ or ‘female’, and for easing the process of issuance of CNICs. Considering the marginalisation that the community faces, we support its cause espoused in the petition.
Members have been advocating for the change to relevant census forms to take place for some time and the sluggish action by the Bureau of Statistics needs to be looked into. In addition, the issuance of CNICs to members of the trangender community remains a problem. In 2009, the Supreme Court had ordered the inclusion of a separate column for community members in CNICs. While NADRA announced the inclusion of this column some years ago, the hassles that community members faced in obtaining CNICs remain. They are required to submit their birth certificates to obtain CNICs, and it is completely ignored that due to the discrimination they face at the hands of their own families, they often do not have birth certificates and other required documentation needed for CNIC issuance. Instead of working to come up with a solution to the unique problems they face, NADRA appears to have done little in this regard. Inclusion of separate columns on census forms and issuance of CNICs are only initial steps towards incorporating the community into mainstream society. Members of the transgender community are Pakistani citizens deserving of the same rights that a male or female citizen is entitled to. It is dehumanising for a community to have to lobby for basic rights such as the amendment to a form for their inclusion. The government must stop humiliating the community and work in unison to change all relevant government forms to include a third gender category.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2016.