ISLAMABAD: A Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) senator has objected to the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) recommendations on the identification of transgender people, saying the council’s recommendations would cause religious issues.
The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights met on Wednesday to discuss the identification of transgender people under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017, which was moved by PPP Senator Rubina Khalid.
The bill states that transgender people should not be asked to prove, through a medical examination conducted by a board, that they are transgender in matters of inheritance.
When transgender individuals demand a share of their inheritance, they are asked to obtain a certificate from a medical board, even in cases of transgender women, who would receive half the share entitled to a man.
Briefing the committee, Senator Khalid said she had met with the CII chairman, and they reached a consensus that transgender people should be recognised the way they identify themselves and, in case of any complaints about their status, the matter could be sent to court for a final decision.
She said the recognition of an individual as transgender should not be dependent on a physical examination because “it adds more to their problems”.
“They can be blackmailed and face difficulties to get the status of transgender,” she said.
“Moreover, there is no requirement for men and women to prove through medical boards that they are male or female, so why are transgender persons forced to get a report from medical boards [stating] that they are transgender [men or women],” she added.
CII Director General Research Dr Inamullah, meanwhile, said the council believed a transgender individual should be recognised as such according to their parents’ view, but if they have been shunned by their parents they “should be accepted as per their own view”.
“In case of any conflict, the court can decide on their status. The bill should be redrafted according to the CII’s definition. However, this is an interim recommendation because it has to be vetted by the council in its meeting scheduled for Feb 8,” he added.
Senator Khalid agreed with the CII official, and said the council’s recommendation should be incorporated into the bill, as she was also suggesting the same thing but differently worded.
The committee chairperson, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Nasreen Jalil, suggested that the discussion be concluded with the recommendation that the bill will be approved if the CII vets Dr Inamullah’s recommendation on Feb 8. It was then that JUI-F Senator Mufti Abdul Sattar interjected, arguing that a medical board should be constituted to determine the status of a transgender person because it would otherwise create religious issues.
“As long as it will not be cleared that a transgender is male or female there will be issues related to Sharia. If a transgender becomes witness in the court, there will be half testimony of a female transgender as compared to male transgender. Same issue can arise in case of inheritance,” he said.
“Moreover nowadays males wear dresses of females and females have getup of males, so it cannot be left to transgender persons to decide that if they are male or female,” he added.
The committee has decided to discuss the bill again after the CII’s next meeting.
Journalist’s attempted abduction
On the recommendation of PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, the functional committee decided to seek an explanation from law enforcement agencies on the attempted abduction of journalist Taha Siddiqui.
Mr Siddiqui, who works with international media organisations, was robbed of his laptop computer, mobile phone, hard drives, passport and other belongings while on his way to the airport on Jan 11. He has alleged that armed individuals attempted to abduct him, but he escaped.
Senator Babar said that although such cases usually do not make much progress, the committee should call the police and other law enforcement agencies to send a message that someone has at least taken notice of the incident.
The committee chairperson decided to issue a notice to the police stating that the matter will be discussing in the committee.
Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2018