KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) sought on Thursday the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) forms for contesting candidates to see whether or not the document contained a provision for transgender persons to contest the upcoming general elections.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, also asked a representative group of the transgender community to submit suggestions on the inclusion of the third sex in the forms.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by the Sindh Transgenders Network, a representative group of the transgender community, which had taken the ECP and other authorities to court for not including any provisions in the election forms for transgender persons who wanted to contest elections.
The petition was filed by Sapna Rajput, the president of the group, who pointed out that the ECP nomination forms only identified two genders and there was no column for transgender persons in the forms.
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The petitioner informed the SHC that members of the transgender community also wanted to contest the upcoming general elections so that they could work for the welfare of their community as well as the general public. However, due to the non-provision of a separate column for them in the election forms, they could not take part in the elections, which was discrimination against the community, the court was informed.
"Members of the transgender community are also equal citizens of the country, therefore, they should also be allowed to participate in the elections," argued the petitioner's lawyer. It was also requested that separate polling booths be set up at polling stations so that members of the transgender community could easily cast their votes.
The petitioner recalled that former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had in 2009 taken suo motu notice of issues being faced by the transgender community. He also passed orders to the government authorities concerned to provide all the facilities that were enjoyed by other citizens to the transgender community.
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Rajput regretted that the transgender community still had to face difficulties in government departments, as none of them had changed their forms to acquire their facilities and services. All the departments' forms contained male and female genders, as the third column of 'transgender' had yet to be introduced, the petitioner stated. Therefore, the court was pleaded to issue directives to the ECP and other authorities concerned to introduce the third column of 'transgender' in the forms to enable the community to contest elections and cast their votes.
Justice Akhtar observed that nobody had stopped the transgender community from contesting elections. He remarked that the aspiring candidates should submit nomination forms, mentioning 'khwaja saraa' in the column of gender.
As the petitioner's lawyer insisted that appropriate directives be passed to the authorities concerned, the judges told them to submit the election nomination form and other relevant documents so that they could see whether or not they contained the column of 'transgender'.
In the meantime, the petitioner was also asked to submit suggestions for the inclusion of 'transgender' in the sex column in the election forms by the next date of the hearing.
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