–CJP had directed authority to make draft public for feedback
—PSPA deputy chief executive officer says policy first of its kind on government level
LAHORE: For the first time in Pakistan, a policy for the protection and rights of transgender persons has been drafted and published by the Punjab Social Protection Authority (PSPA) on the directions of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Pakistan Today has learnt.
As per the details, the vision of the policy is to create a society where persons of every gender have equal social status, opportunities for socio-economic inclusion and mutual respect for one another. It aims to ensure that all transgender persons have recognition in accordance with their gender identity and expression, their rights are protected by the state and they get a secure and respectable livelihood with equal access to public services as well as the labour market.
In accordance with the residence statistics of rural and urban areas in Pakistan, the policy states that almost 10,418 transgender persons are living in the country. Punjab has the highest number of transgender persons (6,709), out of which 2,124 are living in rural and 4,585 are living in urban areas. In Sindh, 301 are living in rural and 2,226 are living in urban areas, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the number of those in rural areas is 223 while that in urban areas is 690. In Balochistan, there are 40 transgender persons living in rural and 69 in urban, while in Islamabad there are 52 in rural and 81 in urban.
“According to recent research studies conducted on transgenderism, approximately one out of 50 children are identified with a transgender tendency/ potential. In other words, about 2 per cent population of Pakistan is influenced by transgenderism,” the policy states, adding that the models on the welfare of transgender persons in India and Bangladesh have also been included in the research while preparing the policy. The policy also includes the Transgender Act 2017 of Pakistan.
An official of PSPA has said the strategic objectives of policy aims for the betterment of the transgender persons in multiple dimensions on the basis of equity, resilience, opportunity, gender equity and social inclusion. The policy also describes the four welfare components for transgender persons which are social provisions, livelihood support, social security and welfare assistance.
A transgender person living in old Lahore, Jasmin, talked about the plight of transgenders by saying, “We are the neglected ones. We are considered a taboo and all that we can do for our earnings is dance or beg on the streets. We are not allowed in schools and have no access to basic facilities like education or health. Doctors make fun of us, if we have any issues we have no access to police stations, we are thrown out of schools considering that we would spoil others and on the streets, passersby pass comments. We are treated as if we are not even human beings.”
Jasmin further said that the most terrible aspect of a transgender person’s life was that their families did not own them either. “It will be a favour to all transgender persons if such policies are formulated at the government level.”
Another transgender person who runs a beauty salon, Vicky, told Pakistan Today that she took up the profession as one of her friends managed to arrange a beauty course for her. “I would have been living a life much similar to that of other transgender persons had my friend not helped me in setting up this salon to earn a respectable living.”
“My priority is to hire more from the transgender community and in my parlor, I have almost five to six transgender persons working as makeup artists. We should be considered as equal citizens of this country and have access to all basic facilities. I was initially not accepted in this field but I am indebted to my friends who helped me.”
Speaking of the policy, Vicky said that it was much needed but a draft was not all. “It needs to be implemented in full spirit and awareness should be given to people that being born as a transgender is not our fault, it is the nature’s decision and they should take this as a disability rather than a taboo,” Vicky remarked.
Meanwhile, PSPA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Tahir Raza told this scribe that it was the first policy ever made on the government level and the policy had been published on the directions of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP).
“A seminar on the rights of transgender persons was held in August 2018 in which the CJP was the chief guest. He had appreciated the policy and directed PSPA to publish it so that feedback and comments of the people could be received. The policy has been shared with the concerned people of all provinces so that they can share their views on it,” he said.
Tahir further said that all the suggestion PSPA received would be incorporated into the policy. “Our aim is to provide transgender persons with equal rights in Pakistan and work for their social welfare so they don’t have to be a disowned segment of the society and can live a respectable life,” he added.