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Pakistan’s Bill on transgender rights copied from India

Islamabad, Feb. 9 (ANI): A Bill in Pakistan that seeks to protect the rights of transgenders apparently is an identical copy of a piece of legislation from India and also a replica of the provision of the 1973 Constitution, reports the Express Tribune.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill-2017 was tabled by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Babar Awan as a private members’ bill on January 9 and was later referred to the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights for review.

The only effort put by the mover of the bill was to change ‘India’ with ‘Pakistan’ wherever the name appeared and also the year.

While commenting on the draft bill, Ruqia Samee advocate said: “According to this bill, in the definition clause, it is a federal law.

“The government means the Government of Pakistan; however, after the 18th and 19th Amendments, education, health and social welfare subjects have been devolved to the federating units. But the draft bill does not cover the obligation to the provincial governments.”

She said according to Section 3 of the Bill, prohibition against discrimination was a replica of fundamental rights as provided in the constitution of Pakistan and the chapter of principle of policy of the constitution.

“These prohibitions are generalised in the nature and provides no specific protection to the transgender community,” she said.

Similarly in Section 5, there was mention of district magistrate, but it was not clear whether the district magistrate is from the areas falling within the jurisdiction of the federal government or the provincial governments.

She added that Sections 9 and 10 are also generalised. Moreover, no mechanism has been provided for the protection and care of transgender.

“The draft bill needs a complete review and should be made public,” she said.

Meanwhile a senior official in the Ministry of Human Rights said, “The text of the draft bill is the exact copy of a bill passed in India. Though the issue was raised, it was later told that a team of internationally-acclaimed legal experts have drafted the bill.”

On the other hand civil society organisations working for the rights and welfare of the transgender community have strongly opposed the draft bill and have decided to challenge it in the Supreme Court, Peshawar and Lahore high courts, if it is not withdrawn.

Nadeem Kashish, the founder of the Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights (Safar) said, “The bill should be drafted while considering the challenges being faced by the transgender community in Pakistan.”

Qamar Naseem, programme Coordinator Blue Veins, Transgender Rights Activists (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) said: “The bill could actually make the lives of the transgender community more difficult. The law will require people to obtain a certificate from a screening committee that certified them as transgender. Who are they to decide whether I am transgender or not?”

Senator Maulana Hafiz Hamdullah, who started the debate on the need to have legislation for transgender in the Senate, said: “We reject the draft of this bill which is being copied from India and want Pakistan to draft a new one based on Islamic values in the light of Quran and Sunnah.”