Any marginalised community in a country goes through struggles and challenges of its own. From their right to live to their right to freedom, their existence revolves around many obstacles. Pakistan is no different. The transgender community in Pakistan is a marginalised community that on a daily basis is ridiculed, harassed, abused, and given life threats. And this has been a pattern for many years. The recent propaganda about the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights), Act (2018) is extremely dangerous and life-threatening.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2018 has come under intense criticism from some sections of society during the past few weeks with two petitions also having been filed in the Federal Shariah Court against the Act. The act was enacted in the year 2018 to guarantee transgenders’ equal rights to education, basic health facilities, issuance of CNICs and passports, and giving them a right to vote and contest elections. The Supreme Court’s decision on September 25, 2012, that said that eunuchs were entitled to all of the rights protected by the Constitution and enjoyed by other members of society led to the passing of the 2018 Act. However, now a few religious parties are seeking amendments to the act. The major amendment that is being considered is that a trans person should be allowed to change their gender identity after evaluation from the medical board instead of their self-perceived identity.

A lot of misinformation is being propagated about the Act, including accusations: “The bill is merely a disguise for the LGBT community,” while others are saying that it is creating a pathway for same-sex marriages. There is a common misconception going on that as per the act, any person can change their ID card from M to F and F to M based on their own perception. However, that is simply not the case. The rules that were notified under this act clearly say that if you are a transgender man or a woman, you can change your identification card on the basis of your self-perception but only to X, not to Male or Female.

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A person having an X card cannot marry a person with an ID card with a male or female gender mentioned on it.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Mohsin Aziz on Monday said that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2018 is “disgusting”.

“Why do we have to protect the rights of transgenders? How can we accept the rights of gays and lesbians?” he asked in the Senate.

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Siraj-ul- Haq, the Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has said that all religious groups will demonstrate at Lahore’s Shuhada Mosque if the government does not withdraw the Transgender Rights Act seriously. He further said that the Act is more dangerous than the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Japan in 1945.

The question remains: why are the rights of a marginalised community such a threat? Why can some sects of society not let them live? Did anyone actually read what the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2018 stands for? More than 20 transgender people have lost their lives. We hope the people threatening the transgender community understands that they have a right to live and the right to dignity. Let the transgender community live: they’re already marginalised in Pakistan.