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Eunuchs get on voters' list

November 15, 2011

Estimates put the number of gender confused persons in the country between 80,000 and 300,000. — Photo by Online

ISLAMABAD, Nov 14: Orders went out from the Supreme Court on Monday to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to enroll eunuchs as voters — a development that accords the basic right to a much mistreated community.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, issuing the order, directed the ECP “to collect the details of eunuchs from the social welfare departments of the provinces where they are registered and take steps to register them as voters”. The ECP, which is preparing new electoral rolls for the next general elections, will submit its report to the court in this regard in two weeks.

Estimates put the number of gender confused persons in the country between 80,000 and 300,000. Not a big number, but since every vote counts in elections, contestants and political parties may be seen wooing them come next elections — “ covertly, if not openly.

Even when they did not figure on the voters lists, they were occasionally seen enlivening electoral campaigns in the past. In India, eunuchs have contested and won local elections.

On Monday, the Supreme Court also asked Nadra to push the provinces to expedite its task of issuing computerised national identity cards to eunuchs.

A representative of the Sindh government informed the court that it was going to establish a community centre for eunuchs and taking steps for their social uplift.

A piece of land has been earmarked to set up a colony for them and their services were hired in the malaria eradication campaign, the representative said.

The court directed that other provinces follow the example of Sindh and asked the Punjab government to submit information regarding proper transfer of inherited lands among 122 eunuchs.

Last year the Supreme Court had ordered all the district administrations in the country to help eunuchs get their inherited properties. The provinces are required to submit the implementation reports by December 12.

Eunuchs'  miserable lot started changing after Dr Mohammad Aslam Khaki, and Islamic jurist, moved a petition in the Supreme Court for the establishment of a commission to emancipate hermaphrodite children and find out ways for the welfare of this segment of the society living on begging, dancing and prostitution.

Dr Khaki got interested in their plight when police arrested some eunuch-transvestites who were entertaining a party in Taxila. His research showed that the society abandons such children to become the most oppressed and deprived segment, suffering humiliation and molestation every day.

Later, he filed the petition to secure the emancipation and welfare of the unfortunate and vulnerable effeminate men ostracised by the society for no fault of theirs.

During previous proceedings, the court was informed that usually hermaphrodite children are abandoned to the world of merry makers. They are handed to gurus (eunuch leaders) at the time of their birth or at a very tender age. They have no chance to get education and are put straight into training in singing, dancing at happy occasions in families or are forced into prostitution.

They live in sizable communities, divided into clan groups living mostly in slums and presided over by a leader or guru and constantly denied of the right of inheritance and fundamental rights as they can not even travel openly in trains, buses or use facilities available to common citizens of the country.