Trans-community in Punjab demanding legislation for their rights

Transgender community needed immediate legislation for their protection in Punjab Province in Pakistan. It was expressed by Jannat Ali, a transgender activist, during an event, organized by Good Thinkers Organization in Lahore. During the program, Mr. Waqas Abid Advocate, President of Good Thinkers Organization shared that the transgender community is one of the most marginalized and neglected segments of our society. The community has been widely subjected to violence, oppression and barbarism from the general public. In everyday lives, we have seen them involved in professions such as begging, dancing and sometimes as sex workers. It is a pity that in this fast-paced race of development era, we fail to ensure basic fundamental rights such as decent employment and protection for transgender persons.  

Traditionally, the trans-community was well-known for celebrating happiness in our homes and also adding honor to our celebrations by praying for the family and people of the area. But as we progress socially, the incidence of cruelty, violence and sexual abuse against the community is on the rise. It has become the norm for the community members to be abducted, imprisoned, sexually abused, and brutally tortured. Hundreds of trans-persons have been killed in the past years, cases have been registered, but due to a number of factors such as the vulnerability of the community, lack of strong prosecution and the inability of trans-persons to pursue the case properly, the accused later acquitted using various methods. 

Before 2018, there was no specific legislation for the protection of transgender rights in Pakistan. Fortunately, the trans-rights protection law was passed at the federal level in 2018 to prevent the daily occurrence of violence against this vulnerable segment of our society and to ensuring full protection. Unfortunately, this is the third year in a row that the federal government has not yet made any rules regarding this law. The legal team of the Good Thinkers Organization has also reviewed the current law in-depth so that all aspects can be taken into account for future provincial legislation.

In the spirit of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, the responsibility and powers of legislation on issues such as protection of rights and social welfare have been delegated to the provinces. In view of the daily incidents of brutality against trans-persons, the Department of Human Rights and Minority Affairs, in collaboration with the Government of Punjab, Good Thinkers Organization with the support of Commonwealth Foundation has organized consultative meetings for the provincial level legislation across Punjab. Consultations were held with trans-gurus, the transgender community, civil society organizations, members of parliament, lawyers, media and other stakeholders at the very grass-root level to identify the problems of the community. Based on all the consultation meetings and focus group discussions with the community members, recommendations from the stakeholders were proposed to be included in the provincial law for ensuring the protection and welfare of the trans-community in its true sense. 

In recent consultative meetings; education for transgender persons, health, old age allowance, early childhood rearing, decent employment, small loans for decent business, special assistance in case of any disaster or an epidemic, social acceptance, vocational skill education and other such essential demands have put forward. These all rights are available to every citizen constitutionally, legally and socially, but the transgender community considered themselves deprived of all of them which further worsen their socio-economic condition. All recommendations have been forwarded to the Department of Human Rights and Minority Affairs, so that all aspects can be taken into consideration for the legislative process of the provincial law in Punjab.

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