A Federal Shariah Court bench headed by interim Chief Justice Syed Muhammad Anwar heard the case challenging the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.
At the hearing, the courtroom was filled with transgender persons who were worried about their fate. They request the court to get the assistance of gender experts before deciding anything about their lives.
They expressed fear that since the case proceedings have started and since three transgender persons have been killed in Peshawar.
They also urged the court to stop authorities from taking action against transgender and place a ban on promoting the case on social media till a verdict is announced.
Justice Anwar said that the real issue is about protecting rights. We aim to protect the community and ensure that they get their rights, he said. Turning a blind eye won’t solve any problem, Justice Anwar said.
The court accepted the applications of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Farhatullah Babar and transgender activist Almas Boby to become party to the case. It also asked them to submit written replies at the next hearing.
Farhatullah Babar said he would like to inform the court that the act was made by merging two different bills.
Counsel representing Senator Mushtaq said that an amended bill was tabled in the Senate.
The court adjourned the hearing indefinitely.
Controversy surrounding Transgender Persons Act
In 2018, the National Assembly passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill.
The law states: “Every Transgender person, being the citizen of Pakistan, who has attained the age of eighteen years shall have the right to get himself or herself registered according to self-perceived gender identity with NADRA on the CNIC, CRC, Driving Licence and passport in accordance with the provisions of the NADRA Ordinance, 2000 or any other relevant laws.”
Critics, including religious leaders, claim that the law is against the principles laid out in Shariah.
In November 2021, Senator Mushtaq – a vocal opponent of the bill – tabled an amended bill in the upper house of Parliament.
The amended bill seeks the creation of a medical board that would decide if a person’s gender should change, instead of them seeking a reassignment on the basis of their self-perceived identity.
The bill recommends the formation of such boards at the district level after the approval of the prime minister and provincial chief ministers. Each board shall include a professor doctor, a psychologist, a male general surgeon, a female general surgeon, and a chief medical officer.
The bill is still pending.