What was considered to be a historic act in the country’s history is now being amended to erase any minor gains or goodwill that was generated. On Monday, the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights held a meeting where the body discussed the different proposed amendments relating to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018. Once again, it appears that persistent pushback from the conservative segments of society has forced the hands of lawmakers to push for these amendments.
The committee was apprised about the common position taken by the movers of all six bills that Islamic law categorically provides that gender cannot be derived from internal feeling or internal sense of being, but instead may solely be derived from physical appearance, genital attributes, and congenital ambiguities. As a result, the committee unanimously decided to replace the word “Transgender” in the 2018 Act with “Khunsa (Intersex)”. This is another case of pandering to the religious circles who have very little understanding of the bill, and how it sought to provide some protection to an extremely marginalised and abused community.
What is even more concerning is the fact that the committee has agreed to constitute a medical board comprising six experts at the district level. Further, intersex people will have to register themselves with NADRA as per the certification made by the medical board. Requiring transgender people to go through such bureaucratic procedures, where it is guaranteed that they will face significant hurdles, is not something that will improve the already dismal situation for the community. It is also problematic how the determination of gender will be done solely on the medical board’s report.
This is undoubtedly a step backwards, which is rightly attracting criticism from both within and outside the country. This will only make the lives of an already oppressed community even harder. This amendment is not being pursued in the broader interests of the transgender community, and it must also be pointed out that there was not a single intersex person on the committee. For now, the matter has been deferred until the next meeting, so it is imperative that lawmakers do whatever they can to oppose this regressive move.