KARACHI: Expressing grave concern over ceasing the issuance of computerised national identity cards (CNICs) to transgender persons by the National Database Registration Authority, the Sindh Human Rights Commission has asked the authority to facilitate members of the already marginalised community in its centres across Sindh without any discrimination on the basis of gender identity, it emerged on Tuesday.

Official sources told Dawn that the SHRC had received a complaint from Sana Khan, a transgender activist, through a committee member that the Nadra had ceased issuing them CNICs under a notification, though it was withdrawn on Sept 25, 2023.

They said that despite the withdrawal of the notification, the Nadra offices in Hyderabad were informed that the central system of the database authority was yet to be updated.

The sources said that while halting the issuance of CNIC to the transgender community, Nadra had relied on a judgment by the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) in the case of Hammad Hussain versus Federation of Pakistan and others.

Activist Sana approaches SHRC regarding denial of identity documents by authority to transgender community in Sindh

They said that the FSC had on May 19, 2023 ceased the operation of certain provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 with immediate effect.

Those provisions included Section 2(f) (containing the definition of “gender identity”), Section 2(n) and Section 3 (related to legal gender recognition), and Section 7 (related to inheritance) of the 2018 Act.

However, the sources pointed out that multiple appeals had been filed against the FSC judgment regarding the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.

Meanwhile, SHRC chairperson Iqbal Ahmed Detho, in a letter to the regional head of Nadra in Karachi, asked the authority to facilitate the members of the transgender community without discrimination.

He said in the letter said that Article 203D of the Constitution stipulated the powers, jurisdiction and functions of the FSC.

The SHRC chief said that the Supreme Court had interpreted Article 203D in Kalsoom Begum V/S Peran Ditta and others (2022 SCMR 1352) at para 6 of the judgement that stated “Since the appeal is pending adjudication, the said decision of the Federal Shariat Court (impugned therein) has not come into effect”.

He said that the transgender community in the country was already marginalised and denied its constitutional rights. “Ceasing the provision of CNIC to the transgender persons violates various fundamental rights granted to the citizens,” he added.

Mr Detho further said that the constitutional rights granted to the citizen included the right to dignity (Article 14), right to life (Article 9), and the right to equality before law (Article 25). “Additionally, it also effects the right to freedom of movement (Article 15), freedom of assembly (Article 16), freedom of association (Article 17) and freedom of trade, business or profession (Article 18),” it said, adding that citizens could not enjoy these rights without a CNIC.

He said: “Therefore, the SHRC under Section 4(iii) and 4(v) has taken cognizance and refers to your good office to facilitate the transgender persons in all NADRA centres of Sindh without any discrimination on the basis of gender identity as guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan under intimation to the SHRC”.

The SHRC chairperson said that the SHRC was established under the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act 2011 for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Province of Sindh on May 09, 2013.

He said that under Section 2 (iv), it had an overarching mandate for the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution and legal safeguards and protections described under the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act 2011.

Mr Detho said that under the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act 2011 (and 2023 Amendment), the SHRC had the powers and functions to formulate, implement and regularly update policies with a view to protect human rights, and review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2024

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