ISLAMABAD: A bill seeking protection of the rights of transgender is a ditto copy of the piece of legislation from neighbouring India, and also a replica of the provision of the 1973 Constitution, it has been learnt.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill-2017 was tabled by PPP Senator Babar Awan as a private members’ bill on January 9 and was later referred to the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights for review.
The only effort put by the mover of the bill was to change ‘India’ with ‘Pakistan’ wherever the name appeared and also the year.
While commenting on the draft bill, Ruqia Samee advocate said: “According to this bill, in the definition clause, it is a federal law.
“The government means the government of Pakistan; however, after the 18th and 19th Amendments, education, health and social welfare subjects have been devolved to the federating units. But, the draft bill does not cover the obligation to the provincial governments.”
She said according to Section 3 of the bill, prohibition against discrimination was a replica of fundamental rights as provided in the constitution of Pakistan and the chapter of principle of policy of the constitution.
“These prohibitions are generalised in the nature and provides no specific protection to the transgender community,” she said.
Similarly in Section 5, there was mention of district magistrate, but it was not clear whether the district magistrate is from the areas falling within the jurisdiction of the federal government or the provincial governments.
In Section 6, it was not clear either the federal government or provincial governments shall constitute district screening committees.
“The composition of the screening committees is also not clear, as it is ambiguous in the nature as to who will constitute district screening committees, whereas the district other than the ICT Islamabad and GB all districts fall within the domain of the provincial government,” she said. In Clause (e) in subsection II of subsection 6 of the draft bill, there is mention of officer of government to be nominated by that government.
“In this regard, it is quite unusual that in a screening committee constituted in a district, how the federal government can nominate an officer district screening committee,” she said.
Sections 9 and 10 are also generalised. Moreover, no mechanism has been provided for the protection and care of transgender. “The draft bill needs a complete review and should be made public,” she said.
Meanwhile talking to The Express Tribune, a senior official in the Ministry of Human Rights, who wished not to be named, said, “The text of the draft bill is the exact copy of a bill passed in India.
“Though the issue was raised, it was later told that a team of internationally-acclaimed legal experts have drafted the bill.”
On the other hand civil society organisations working for the rights and welfare of the transgender community have strongly opposed the controversial draft bill and have decided to challenge it in the Supreme Court, Peshawar and Lahore high courts, if it is not withdrawn. Nadeem Kashish, the founder of the Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights (Safar) said, “The bill should be drafted while considering the challenges being faced by the transgender community in Pakistan.”
Qamar Naseem, programme Coordinator Blue Veins, Transgender Rights Activists (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) said: “The bill could actually make the lives of the transgender community more difficult.”
“The law will require people to obtain a certificate from a screening committee that certified them as transgender,” said Naseem.
“Who are they to decide whether I am transgender or not?”
Senator Maulana Hafiz Hamdullah, who started the debate on the need to have legislation for transgender in the Senate, said: “We reject the draft of this bill which is being copied from India and want Pakistan to draft a new one based on Islamic values in the light of Quran and Sunnah.”
The Express Tribune tried to contact Senator Baber Awan but he could not be reached.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2017.