JI seeks formation of medical board to recommend gender change instead of 'self-perceived identity'

Published November 15, 2021
A file photo of transgender persons. — Dawn/File
A file photo of transgender persons. — Dawn/File

The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) on Monday presented a bill in the Senate seeking an amendment in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, for the creation of a medical board that would recommend whether a person's gender should change, instead of them seeking a reassignment on the basis of their personal identity.

The law, in its current state, reads: "A person recognised as transgender ... shall have [the] right to get himself or herself registered as per self-perceived gender identity with all government departments including, but not limited to, Nadra (National Database and Registration Authority)."

Opposing this provision, the amendment bill presented by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad calls for the formation of a gender reassigment board to suggest to Nadra whether a person's gender should be reassigned.

It recommends the formation of such boards at the district level after the approval of the prime minister and provincial chief ministers, with each board comprising a professor doctor, a psychologist, a male general surgeon, a female general surgeon, and a chief medical officer.

The proposed law seeks a prohibition of gender reassignment surgeries or any other treatment to change genital features on the basis of "any psychological disorder or gender dysphoria". It also states that the law in its present form could lead to the "legalisation of homosexual marriages".

Read: Being transgender — facts, myths and rights

Arguing that the current law violates the dignity of Muslim women, it further states that deeming gender identity a personal matter is contrary to the teachings of Islam.

As Senator Ahmad presented the bill in the upper house, he too contended that under the current law, a person could get themselves registered as a man or a woman not on the basis of their biology but their "personal thoughts".

Quoting interior ministry data that stated that around 28,000 cases of gender change were processed over the past three years, he said Nadra had been changing people's genders following a mere request by them.

This form of the law, he argued, was against the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

Opposing the bill, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said the proposed amendment was aimed at "victimising" transgender persons as the current law gave them the right to identity.

"Till date, not a single complaint has been received regarding the misuse of this [existing] law," she added.

JI and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl senators protested Mazari's remarks, following which Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani sent the bill to the relevant standing committee for discussion.

Gender reassigment cases over 3 years

During last week's Senate session, Senator Ahmad had sought information about the total number of applications received for issuance of gender change certificates by Nadra from July 2018 to June 2021, with original and intended gender-wise breakup of the applicants.

In a written reply to the question, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said gender change certificates were not issued by Nadra. However, he said, gender was modified due to medical reasons or on submission of an application.

According to data shared with the house, 16,530 cases of gender change from male to female were processed, 12,154 cases of female to male, 21 cases of transgender to male, nine cases of male to transgender and as many cases of transgender to female.

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