PESHAWAR: In a historic first, Farzana Jan on Friday became the first citizen of Pakistan to carry a passport that allows its bearer to select a gender other than male or female.
The acknowledgement of members of the transgender community follows years of activism that forced the country’s legal system to recognise gender on the basis of self-identification.
The co-founder and president of TransAction Alliance had applied for an urgent passport. However, it took her more than six months to get the passport processed and include a separate column for people, who do not want to identify as male or female, to define themselves as ‘X’. The passport’s other particulars are the same as those of ordinary passports.
Farzana said she was first told by the authorities concerned that “it can’t be done because the entire National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) system would need to be updated”.
“But,” she said, “I hadn’t abandoned the task of adding a separate column, and finally they (Nadra authorities) have added the column for transgender.”
“I am so happy to be recognised by the Directorate General of Immigration & Passports that I am a human and has a gender other than male and female,” Farzana told The Express Tribune, while thanking the government.
She said: “It’s the biggest milestone for all the transgender community of Pakistan that they will now get a passport having a separate column about their gender.”
Moreover, Farzana said the tiresome efforts of the TransAction Alliance, a not-for-profit society working for the rights of transgender, made it possible to give them an identity.
“Previously, transgender were ignored in the census and then on the directives of the Peshawar High Court, a separate column was sought for transgender in the census form held recently in the country.”
Like passport, transgender are issued computerised national identity cards (CNICs) having a separate gender column following the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan back in 2011.
However, the community is still facing problems in getting ordinary CNIC that bears male and female gender column.
Farzana said that since the majority of transgender are abandoned by their families, the necessary particulars required to get CNICs remained empty.
“Parents do not visit their transgender children and provide Nadra the required signatures and other particulars,” she lamented, adding they have taken up the issue on various forums but to no avail.