The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed in 2018, granting legal recognition to transgender persons and prohibiting discrimination against them in several spheres of public life. The Act passed with a parliamentary majority, as all bills do, and the public praised this law. Now, four years after the passing of this law, recent bad-faith misinformation campaigns and malicious political play on social media have renewed interest in this law and have successfully misguided certain parts of the public to advocate for the repeal of this law.

It is good then that the Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar on Thursday rejected criticism over this law. This is where the government must adopt political will and remain steadfast in the implementation of this law. This is a law enacted for the welfare of one of the most disadvantaged and helpless communities in the country. It appears that sensationalist headlines and misinformation are being spread about the law in order for political points; the law speaks strictly only about fundamental rights, criminalising discrimination and harassment against transgender persons, and advocating for inclusion in educational institutions and services.

Indeed if anything, the law does not go far enough—due to the lack of penalties, there is no genuine incentive for the citizens to follow the legislation, and no infrastructure or concrete punishments in place to enforce it. The contentions that it could be misused are baseless considering that four years have passed and no such genuine complaints have arisen. Instead, NADRA actually had to initiate a campaign drive to encourage transgender persons to take benefit of the law and register their gender.

Before this Act, transgender persons had no legal identity in legislation. This meant they could be deprived of government jobs, education opportunities, health services and all matters of public life. Repealing the essential parts of the Act would also violate the 2012 Supreme Court judgement which gives legal recognition to the transgender community in Pakistan.