Responding to the reserved verdict striking down sections of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 by the Federal Shariat Court in Pakistan today, Rehab Mahamoor, research assistant at Amnesty International, said:
“This verdict is a blow to the rights of the already beleaguered group of transgender and gender-diverse people in Pakistan. Further, some of the observations made by the Court were based on presumptive scenarios rather than empirical evidence. The denial of essential rights of transgender and gender diverse persons should not be guided by assumptions rooted in prejudice, fear and discrimination.
This verdict is a blow to the rights of the already beleaguered group of transgender and gender-diverse people in Pakistan.Rehab Mahamoor, research assistant at Amnesty International
“Any steps taken by the government of Pakistan to deny transgender and gender-diverse people the right to gender identity is in contravention of their obligations under international human rights law, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which they are a state party.
“The Government of Pakistan should take immediate and urgent steps to stop the reversal of essential protections, without which transgender and gender diverse people will be even more at risk of harassment, discrimination and violence.”
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018 in Pakistan, which has been widely considered a positive step in the advancement of transgender rights, was drafted and advocated for by a wide group of stakeholders, including transgender rights activists. It enshrined much needed protections such as the definition of a transgender person and access to legal gender recognition based on self-determination, the rights to education and employment and the prohibition of discrimination
The Federal Shariat Court of Islamabad on Friday ruled that the sections 2(f), 3 and 7 of the Transgender Act 2018 which relate to gender identity, the right to self-perceived gender identity and the right of inheritance for transgender people do not conform with their interpretation of Islamic principles. The Court ceased, with immediate effect, the sections deemed ‘un-Islamic’. During the delivery of the verdict, the Court speculated that the Act could pave the way for rape, and sexual assault of women as they allege the Act makes it easy for a man to gain access to “exclusive spaces” intended for women, “disguised” as a transgender woman. There is no publicly available evidence of such incidents taking place in Pakistan.
In a public statement released on 17 May 2023, Amnesty International called for the government of Pakistan to reject all proposed amendments to the Transgender Act that violate international human rights laws and standards. The government must also stop any attempts at amending the Act that would prevent transgender people from to obtaining official documents that reflect their gender identity without complying with abusive and invasive requirements.