ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Marginalised Segments has decided to invite transgender activists to discuss issues facing the transgender community and find a way to prevent violations of their rights.

The matter was forwarded to the committee after Senator Maulana Hafiz Hamdullah raised the issue during a Senate session.

The meeting observed that the massive and rampant violations of the rights of transgender Pakistanis began from a young age and continued throughout their lives.

The committee chairman, PML-N Senator Nisar Mohammad, added that while the Constitution does not discriminate based on gender and ensures the rights of all individuals, “society’s behaviour towards transgender [people] is appalling”.

The committee asked the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) to suggest a way forward in light of a 2012 Supreme Court decision, a unanimous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly resolution and the Capital Administration and Development Division’s (CADD) draft bill on transgender rights.

The commission has been directed to report its recommendations to the committee at its next meeting.

Four years ago, the SC decreed equal rights and civil liberties for transgender citizens, including the right to inheritance and equal job opportunities.

The KP Assembly passed a resolution seeking voting rights for the province’s transgender community.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “It will be the first time that transgender [people] will be given the chance to be important segments of society.”

However, details of the proposed transgender rights bill were not discussed, and the NCHR was not prepared to brief the committee on the measures taken to mitigate the problems facing transgender individuals.

The committee meeting also discussed computerised identity cards for transgender citizens. Senator Babar likened the situation to the National Database and Registration Authority’s (Nadra) initiative to issue CNICs to children with unknown parentage, saying: “If Nadra makes the effort, the matter of issuing CNICs to transgender [people] can also be settled.”

Awami National Party Senator Sitara Ayaz requested that representatives from the transgender community be invited to the next Senate session, when all members of parliament and the media are present, to send a message of good will.

NCHR vs Ministry of Human Rights

The committee said the executive and the Ministry of Human Rights were not cooperating with the NCHR.

“It is obvious that both the executive and the ministry are biased and hell-bent on creating hurdles for the National Commission on Human Rights,” Senator Babar said.

Senator Mohammad believed that, following the 18th Amendment, the jurisdiction of the human rights ministry does not extend beyond the capital. “However, the commission, created by parliament, has more powers and can address human rights issues anywhere in the country,” he said.

In September, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights confronted the chairman of the NCHR, retired justice Ali Nawaz Chohan. In addition to its complaints about the human rights ministry for the release of funding, the NCHR has also registered a complaint against the National Assembly committee – particularly its chairman PML-N MNA Babar Nawaz Khan – for harassment.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2016

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