The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill for the protection of rights of transgender persons, empowering them to determine their own gender identity.

If it goes on to become a law, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017, presented by Senator Dr Karim Khwaja, will enable trans people to be recognised as they perceive themselves and register with government offices as transgenders.

“This means that under the proposed law they would not need to appear before a medical board to decide their gender,” Chairperson of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights Senator Nasreen Jalil had told Dawn last month.

“The transgender community is opposed to the idea of setting up a medical board that should determine their gender fearing that they might be subjected to embarrassment and harassment. The bill provides protection to the members of transgender community and prohibits attack on their self-esteem and mistreatment,” the MQM senator had said.

Other landmark provisions of the proposed law that seek to protect the rights of the transgender community include:

  • Transgender persons will be able to register to obtain a driver's licence and passport. They will have the option to get their gender changed in National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) records.

  • Harassment of transgenders will be prohibited in and outside their homes.

  • Trans persons will not be discriminated against by educational institutions, employers, in trade and health services, and when using public transport and buying or selling or renting property They will also not be dismissed because of their gender identity.

  • The government will establish a safe house for transgenders and provide them medical and educational facilities and psychological counselling.

  • Separate rooms will be established at jails where transgenders could be detained.

  • Law enforcement agencies personnel will be sensitised to the rights of transgender people.

  • Trans persons will be provided loans to start businesses on easy conditions.

  • In addition to all basic rights, they will be entitled to inherit property.

  • The government will take steps to ensure employment opportunities for transgenders.

  • Transgenders will have the right to vote in all national, provincial and local government elections and they will not be discriminated against in their pursuit of a public office.

  • They will have the right to assemble and access to public and entertainment sports.

  • Anyone found guilty of forcing a transgender person to beg will be sentenced to six months in prison and served a fine of Rs50,000.

The bill has been passed days after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government issued driving licences to 15 transgender persons for the first time.

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