Pakistan passed a bill for the protection of the rights of transgender persons and will be signed into law
"Transgender Bill will protect our rights and dignity!"
The National Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill for the protection of rights of transgender persons, empowering them to determine their own gender identity. The ‘Transgender Persons Bill’ was passed in its original form as passed by the Senate. It will be signed into law by the President.
Mehlab Jameel & Maruf | May 8, 2018
“This is huge! The Bill was drafted with collective input from the community, trans activists and feminist allies. It's our collective victory. Laws can only go so far where marginalized communities are concerned, especially communities such as transgender people, who have been persecuted by the law. However, this Bill when it becomes Act will lead towards meaningful change allowing trans persons to live a better life!”, said Mehlab Jameel, Pakistani trans activist.
Mehlab Jameel added: “This was a special rights Bill accompanied by a criminal law amendment to protect rights of transgender people. We started working on this Bill some time last year and the Bill as it has been passed now was drafted by activists and policy experts under a taskforce. The Bill having been passed from the Senate and the National Assembly will be signed into law.”
What are some of the important features of the Bill?
It's a basic anti-discrimination legislation that sets the base for further civil rights work regarding transgender community in Pakistan. The Bill prohibits discrimination against transgender people and addresses fundamental rights, including, but not limited to:
In addition, the other main feature of the Bill is Legal Recognition for all transgender people, which the Bill defines as “a Transgender Man, Transgender Woman, KhawajaSira or any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the social norms and cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at the time of their birth.” Legal recognition would include reforming policies regarding:
A long and exhausting fight
The Bill was originally presented by Senator Babar Awan of PPP. However, it drew intense criticism due to lack of feedback from the community and its controversial clauses. It was nearly a copy of the Bill presented in Indian Lok Sabha (which is being protested against by the communities in India). Later NCHR and UNDP presented an alternate draft but that did not gain traction with the community either.
Finally, a draft presented by local activists in collaboration with Feminist Collective was taken up in a National Task Force under Federal Ombudsman Office. Due to overwhelming support for this version, parliamentarians from four political parties presented this draft in the Senate. It was passed in March from Senate. And now it has been passed by National Assembly.
“We were invited to a "consultation" carried out by an NGO partnered with a state body to discuss the Bill and we could see how exclusionary the process of the Bill was. Only activists from a particular socio-cultural background were invited, and their feedback was not properly incorporated either. At this point, we decided to take up this Bill and actually reach out to our grassroots community to get their feedback on the Bill and make them aware of its implications. We ended up re-drafting the entire thing. With support from community activists in various cities, we presented this draft and brought a consensus of stakeholders over the next 8 or 9 months. During this process every single word of this Bill was debated over and over, and we argued our case with parliamentarians, legal and policy experts (including Chief Justice (r.) Raza Khan), representatives of various government departments and policymakers. This Bill went to different parliamentary committees as well as the Council of Islamic Ideology who after directly meeting with us and listening to our case supported us in the parliament. It was a collective effort,” Mehlab Jameel.
Many people worked on this Bill, but we will mention a few of them:
Activists who drafted and lobbied the Bill are Jannat Ali, Mehlab Jameel, Aisha Mughal, Mani AQ (from trans community), Sarah Suhail, Sabahat Rizvi, Nighat Dad, Saleha Rauf and Sonia Qadir (from The Feminist Collective) as well as allies such as Syeda Viquar Hashmi and Nadeem Omar Tarrar. Parliamentarians, particularly, Farhatullah Babar and Rubina Khalid were the driving force behind this Bill.
Mahleb Jameel is part of the team that drafted and presented the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017 with support of the community from all over Pakistan and since then they have been working at various levels to push for passing of this Bill along with their comrades.