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Sunday, July 21, 2024  
14 Muharram 1446  

Senate committee debates modifying defintion for transgender people

Discussion over amendments to 2018 bill also involve criminalising begging
File photo via Pacific Press.
File photo via Pacific Press.

The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights has agreed that parents who hand over inter-sex children to anyone else should be penalised. However, the definition of transgenders has still not been settled.

The committee, chaired by Senator Waleed Iqbal during a meeting on February 17, has also reached an agreement that if a child’s sex is not clearly identifiable at birth, parents should be bound by law to consult a medical board.

The committee arrived at agreement on the two points while discussing proposed amendments to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Riqhts) Act, 2O18. The amendments have been tabled as bills in 2021 and 2022. However, the multiple amendments are being discussed together in the standing committee.

In a society where they are shunned and discriminated against, transgender children are often handed over to other transgenders at the time of birth or in early childhood. They then grow up as part of a separate community, which marginalises them further and makes more opportunites inaccessible to them.

Senator Maulvi Faiz Muhammad, who is one of the people who have proposed amendemnts to the bill, said that the changing a person’s sex is haram in sharia.

However, the main point that has invited the most criticism is section 3 of the 2018 bill. It allows people to be register themselves to a particular gender on the basis of ‘self-perceived identity’. The amendments seek to redefine the definition of a transgender by restricting it to the sex which is medically defined at birth. Senator Waleed Iqbal also remarked that Islam only accepts ‘khunsa’ or inter-sex peopl.

Senator Mohsin Aziz remarked in the meeting that the lives of inter-sex people should not be made more difficult since they already face discrimination in society. Senator Humayun Mohmand agreed and added that a medical board should not be made necessary and the child should be registered as per the apparent sex. Mohmand added that the child could be referred to a board if needed later.

However, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, one of the movers of the bill said that since the sex of a child had implications on property inheritance and other matters, the final word should be by a board.

The amendments also propose that forcing inter-sex people to beg or dance for money and seeks to make access to driving licenses and CNICs easier when they reach the age of 18.

The committee has not completed its deliberations and is set to meet later in March. Transgender activist Shahzadi Rai has stated that using religion to stoke people’s sentiments to influence religion can set a dangerous precedent.

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