Muslim Clerics In Pakistan Recognize Transgender Rights — Sort Of

Published June 28, 2016
Published June 28, 2016
Transgender Rights Protest

ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty ImagesPakistani eunuchs and their supporters protest in the wake of the killing of transgender female Alisha, in Lahore on May 28, 2016. Alisha, who was shot eight times earlier this week allegedly by a disgruntled customer, succumbed to her wounds at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital on May 25. The 25-year-old’s murder is the fifth reported case of violence against trans people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this year.

On Sunday, a large group of Muslim clerics in Pakistan officially decreed that the state should provide equal rights for transgender men and women, including the right to marry.

However, this ruling, which comes from the Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat Islamic organization based in Lahore, is not a legally binding one. The clerics have called upon the government to take action, but now it’s up to the government to accept this and put these changes into practice.

If the government heeds the new decree, transgender men and women would have rights to not only marriage, but also inheritance and Islamic burials, as well as legal protection from parents who might abandon or disown them.

The transgender community in Pakistan certainly needs this sort of protection to counteract the abuse it currently faces. Although the country’s supreme court technically gave transgender men and women equal rights in 2012, advocacy groups on the ground say that the court’s ruling does not at all align with reality.

According to local transgender rights group Trans Action, more than 45 transgender men and women have been killed over the past two years in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone. And just last month, a transgender activist named Alisha was shot eight times and died in the hospital after the staff couldn’t decide whether to place her in the male or female ward.

The new decree from Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat hopes to put an end to abuses like this. “We need to accept them as God’s creation too,” said the group’s chairman, Zia-ul-Haq Naqshbandi. “Whoever treats them badly, society, the government, their own parents, are sinners.”

However, critics of the new decree are quick to point out that its fine print removes much of its efficacy. Indeed, the decree states that “transgender men with male physical characteristics can marry women or transgender women with female characteristics, and vice versa.”

But people that aren’t physically identifiable as one gender or the other, in addition to those that have undergone gender reassignment surgery, are not included in the new decree. Of course, if the government doesn’t actually take action, no one will be protected at all.

Next, read about the Pakistani Islamic council’s recent decision that husbands can “lightly beat” their wives. Then, discover five trans issues you won’t see on television and what the West gets right and wrong about women in Islam.

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