ISLAMABAD: The fate of the transgender law, enacted in 2018, has become uncertain after the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) allowed a number of individuals to become party in a set of petitions that challenged the legislation on grounds that it was “repugnant to Islamic injunctions”.

Farhatullah Babar, a former PPP senator, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of the Jamaat-i-Islami, and Almaas Boby, a transgender, had appealed to the court to let them offer their arguments during hearings on the petitions.

The court also allowed TV anchor Orya Maqbool Jan, Ayesha Mughal and Bubbly Malik to become a party to these petitions.

A two-judge bench, headed by Acting Shariat Court Chief Justice Dr Syed Mohammad Anwer, accepted their appeals.

The National Assembly had enacted the Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act to provide legal recognition to transgender persons and ensure that discrimination against transgender persons in various walks of life shall be punishable.

The law was made after the Supreme Court held on Sept 25, 2012 that eunuchs were entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and enjoyed by other members of society.

The verdict came after a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain disposed of a petition moved by an Islamic jurist, Dr Mohammad Aslam Khaki, seeking emancipation of “hermaphrodite children” so that they could earn a living by “honourable means” instead of begging, dancing and prostitution.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the ACJ observed that the real purpose of the case was to provide “real protection and rights” to the transgender community, adding that rights should be given to those who deserve it.

Orya Maqbool Jan contended that the transgender law was flawed since in the “garb of the transgender rights, an attempt was being made to encourage advocates of LGBT (lesbian, gays, bisexual and transgender)”.

Bubbli Malik, a transgender person, tried to explain before the court the difference between a transgender and an LGBT, suggesting the court seek expert opinion before arriving at a conclusion.

Nayab Ali, another transgender person, requested the court to restrain social media from debating the issue since three transgender persons had lost their lives in Peshawar recently in consequence of a heated discussion.

Aisha Mughal, a transgender representative and lecturer, pleaded before the FSC that the law violated neither the injunctions of Islam nor did it encourage gay or lesbian activities.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2022

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