ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at protecting the rights of transgender persons, by prohibiting discrimination against them and prescribing imprisonment of up to six months for those employing members of the marginalised community as beggars or compelling them to beg.

Two separate bills on the rights of transgender persons were moved — one by Senator Karim Ahmad Khawaja and the other by Senator Rubina Khalid, who are both members of the PPP. The two bills were later clubbed together with consensus among members of the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights.

The first chapter of the bill — on recognition or identity of transgender persons — says a transgender person shall have the right to be recognised as per his or her self-perceived gender identity and get registered with that identity with all government departments, including the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

A transgender person already granted a computerised national identity card by Nadra shall be allowed to change his or her name and gender according to his or her self-perceived identity on CNIC, driving licence and passport, said the bill.

Legislation provides for mechanism for determining share of transgender persons in inherited property

When contacted, a senior Nadra official said applicants from the community could get themselves registered with their desired genders under a registration policy devised by the authority following a Supreme Court judgement in 2009.

Moreover, the gender could be modified in the identity card as per appearance or desire of the applicant. He said that when the bill passed by the Senate would become an act of parliament it would serve to provide legal cover to the policy already being followed.

The bill bars people from treating a transgender person unfairly at educational institutions and healthcare facilities and in relation to employment, trade or occupation.

It prohibits denial of access to, removal from, or meting out of unfair treatment at government or private establishments, organisations, institutions, departments and centres in whose care, custody or employment a transgender person may be. It also prohibits harassment of transgender persons both within and outside the home, based on their gender identity.

The bill makes it obligatory for the government to take steps to secure effective participation of transgender persons in various activities, and their inclusion in society.

The steps identified for the purpose include establishment of protection centres and safe houses for them, to ensure the rescue, protection and rehabilitation of transgender persons, in addition to providing medical facilities, psychological care, counselling and education to them.

Under the bill, the government has also been told to establish separate prisons for the transgender persons involved in any kind of criminal offence.

The government has also been instructed to formulate special vocational training programmes to facilitate, promote and support livelihood for the community and encourage transgender persons to start small businesses by providing them incentives like easy loans and grants.

The bill says there shall be no discrimination against transgender persons in acquiring their rightful share of property as prescribed under the law of inheritance. The bill also provides for a mechanism for determining the share of transgender persons in inherited property.

The bill proposes to give the right to transgender persons to hold public offices, besides asking the government to ensure freedom of assembly for them in accordance with Article 16 of the Constitution.

It also says that no transgender person shall be denied the right to purchase, sell, rent or lease property, or the rights of tenancy on the basis of gender.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2018