The transgender community in Pakistan would be celebrating this moment. A few days ago, Pakistani clerics issued a fatwa, legalizing transgender marriages and giving the community a few more rights to improve their living conditions.
What does the fatwa mention?
The fatwa, signed by 50 clerics affiliated to Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat, gives a transgender person having “visible signs of being a male” the right to marry a woman or a transgender with “visible signs of being a female” and vice versa.
The fatwa also declared that the community should not be deprived of their inheritance by their parents and should not be stigmatized within the society. After they die, they will be buried according to proper Muslim rituals. Any act of insulting or humiliating them would be termed as “haraam”.
What is the current condition of the transgender community?
The community has been ostracized for a long time. Till now, it was impossible for them to marry anyone. They are not given national identity cards as the government does not recognize any “third gender”.
Discrimination notwithstanding, transgenders have come under a lot of physical attacks too. Only last month, a transgender person was shot to death while another one died after doctors refused to treat her.
Will their social condition improve after this fatwa?
No, not necessarily. But it is a step in the right direction.
First of all, the fatwa is not legally binding. So the discrimination and oppression that they face might still continue.
Secondly, it does not mention what are the visible signs for a transgender of being a male or female. The details being open to interpretation, it could lead to a lot of problems in the future.
Third, legalizing transgender marriage might not lead to an increase in marriages if a few other policies are not tweaked. Consider the example of Parveen, a transgender activist: “I want to marry a male transgender, but to register a marriage I need a national identity card with mention of my gender, which is not available.”
As mentioned above, the government still does not recognize any third gender, restricting their access to an identity card.
Awareness is the key to everything. For transgenders to be accepted by others, people need to know that they are no different from us. And that takes time and effort.
But as I said, it is a right step. Recognition of the community by a prominent Islamic organization will hopefully help them make inroads into acceptance by the society in the future.
Compare what is happening in India right now. A Supreme Court ruling in 2014 declared transgenders to be a third gender, but yesterday it rejected the plea by prominent homosexual celebrities to reconsider their decision of criminalizing same-sex marriage.
Considering the situation of the LGBTQ community in both India and Pakistan, it will take a long time for them to gain acceptance by the society and be treated equally. Till then, it is a long and arduous road ahead.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.