Karachi: It has been seven years since the (SC) ruled in their favour. However, the country’s transgendered continue facing problems in getting their Computerised National Identification Cards (CNICs) because of technical and legal hitches.
In 2009, Pakistan’s apex court explicitly ordered to add a third gender option in the CNIC and declared that the transgender have equal rights, as any other citizen. Sadly, this action did little to diminish the discrimination and stereo typing behavior by the bureaucracy in particular and society as whole.
Though National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), responsible for making CNICs for its citizens under the Interior Ministry, had specified the 3rd option in the CNIC for the transgender in 2012 but due to legislative and policy technicalities majority of the transgendered are faced with deterrents in getting their CNIC.
Bindiya Rana, a transgender and president of Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA) while talking to Truth Tracker on phone said, in disappointing tone, that the state actually does not want to follow the Supreme Court orders; therefore they are raising objections, which are practically impossible for the transgendered to fulfill.
She said, “NADRA officials at times ask to bring affidavit, certificate and court decree etcetera, means they are not willing to provide us CNICs.” She questioned if there was any uniformity in the policy because it had come to her notice that Nadra officials at various centers have been declaring different set of requirements for provision of CNIC.
In its groundbreaking decision in 2009, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had ruled that the transgender community is equally entitled to rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. These rights they added included but were not limited to the right of inheritance after the death of parents, job opportunities, free education and health care.
Rana observed that majority of the transgendered believe that their rights are guaranteed on paper alone but they do not have these rights in practice as federal government and provincial welfare departments have yet to implement the decision of the Supreme Court.
“Resultantly, they (the transgender) continue to face discrimination from society. They largely depend on a livelihood of singing and dancing at weddings and birth celebrations. They are also treated as sex objects and often become the victims of violent assaults,” she further added.
While talking to Newslens Pakistan on phone a NADRA official based at headquarters, not to be named as he is not authorised to speak with the media, said they (NADRA officials) will have to follow the rules, procedure and policies. Therefore, without the record of the parents they cannot prepare CNICs until citizens bring certificate (decree) from the courts.
The official further added that it is the general policy and applies to all citizens including the transgendered as well. Replying to a question, the official said, “If every Guru (head of the transgender family) is allowed to be the guardian then what will happen in case of changing the Guru?”
Under section 9(1) of the NADRA Ordinance 2000, the Authority is obligated to register every citizen of Pakistan, inside or outside the country, who has attained the age of 18 years. A parent or a guardian must also register the birth of a child no later than one month after the birth.
Rana suggested NADRA accepts the Gurro as guardian and that CNIC could be issued upon submission of an affidavit. However, the NADRA official is of the view that if CNICs would be issued on affidavits, then it will create a mess and various complications may occur in case of change of the Guru. Also anyone could claim being Gurro or guardian to aid acquisition of CNICs.
“Many of the transgenders left their homes or were abandoned by the families at an early age; therefore they don’t remember their parents; or families are not ready to accept them. In such a situation how they (the transgender) can bring record of parents” Rana regretfully observed. She also pointed out that if the policy was not changed then why transgenders were issued CNIC on the directions of the then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry?
According to the last census in Pakistan conducted in 1998 there were 52.03 percent males and 47.97 percent females and the total population was 130,857,717. According to reports the transgendered were not separated in that census. Due to the efforts of civil society, NGOs and human right activists, the Punjab Bureau of Statics had decided to include them in the census. Consequently, Ministry of Human Rights Punjab had announced that the transgender were to be counted in upcoming census as per directions of the SC in 2012.
Shabeer Shar, vice president of Supreme Court Bar Association and member Pakistan Bar Council while talking to Truth Tracker said that the NADRA official were violating the orders of the Supreme Court because court had issued clear instructions about the CNICs of the transgender. He said that the transgender do not need any decree or certificate from court as per SC orders and Nadra is bound to issue them CNICs.
NADRA official said that they have inducted three columns in the CNIC known as “Khansa, male, and Female” or who so ever do not want him declared as man, woman, then it can be added to the third column.
“NADRA does not want any medical certificate for the assertion of gender now. One only has to declare it before the officials on the sport at various centers” he observed.
Shar suggested that the transgender should file a contempt plea in the Supreme Court and he offered probono services for them as well. “The transgendered are the most neglected segment of the society and NADRA bureaucrats should understand their ordeal,” observed Shar.
Rana said that there are approximately 0.5 million transgendered in Pakistan. But there are many others who are still living with their parents. She said that together they are working to build an alliance for the transgender in the country. She vowed that they would file contempt petition against government if the transgender were not given their rights as per the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.