Transgender rights’ bill referred to Senate standing committee

Upper House passes two bills, refers six private members’ bills to relevant standing committees

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Monday referred the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) (Amendment) Bill, 2022, to the relevant standing committee for debate in order to reach a consensual decision on the matter.

The amendment bill was presented by PTI Senator Fauzia Arshad. The National Assembly had enacted the Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act in 2018 to provide legal recognition to transgender persons and ensure that discrimination against transgender persons in various walks of life shall be punishable. The law was made after the Supreme Court held on Sept 25, 2012, that eunuchs were entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and enjoyed by other members of society.

Some religious parties, however, have since been of the opinion that the law gives legal protection to homosexuality. Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) recently became a party to a case assailing the law in the Federal Shariat Court (FSC), while Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl), a key ally of the federal government, has termed the law as “against the teachings of Islam”.

During the Senate session on Monday, Senator Mohsin Aziz voiced his reservations about the legislation, saying he was now regretting not opposing the bill when it was introduced and approved in 2018. “There is a difference between transgender and intersex … we should beg pardon from Allah,” the senator said, adding that transgender persons are not eunuchs (khawaja sira). Aziz said the amendment should be made to the law “as soon as possible”, warning “the more the delay, the greater the wrath of Allah”.

Responding to the senator, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said that it must not be forgotten that the law was enacted four years ago. “This is a sensitive matter,” the minister said, adding “they [transgender persons] are the creations of Allah and they deserve respect.” He also stressed that the matter should not be politicised, and instead should be emphasised during discussions in the committee. Senator Mushtaq said that he had proposed some amendments to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, but “a campaign was initiated against me afterward.”

He called for the process of approving amendments to be expedited. After the discussion, Sanjrani said the bill was being referred to the standing committee for further debate as it had become a “victim of politicisation”. The bill moved by Senator Arshad in the Senate today sought amendments to definitions of gender expression and gender identity. The bill, according to her, was aimed to redefine the transgender person and also sought amendments in various sub-sections of Section 3 with a focus to omit the expressions related to the self-perceived gender identity of transgender persons.

It sought to omit the expression “as per his or her self-perceived gender identity”, as such, from sub-section 1 of Section 3 – which is related to the recognition of the identity of a transgender person – and expressions as per his or her self-perceived gender identity from sub-sections 2 and 3 of Section 3. It also proposed to delete sub-section 4 from Section 3 which says “a transgender person already issued CNIC by Nadra shall be allowed to change the name and gender according to his or her self perceived identity on the CNIC, CRC, Driving License and passport in accordance with the provisions of the Nadra Ordinance, 2000”.

Furthermore, the bill sought amendments in Sections 7 and 8 related to the share of inheritance and right to education. The statement of objects and reasons of the proposed bill says that this legislative proposal has been brought to fill the gaps and make this law more effective and worthwhile for reducing suffering, improving the standard of living, and reforming the most deprived segment of society.

It states that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act, 2018 has been enacted to protect and safeguard the rights of the transgender community in Pakistan. Its objective is to ensure the provision of rights to own, inherit property, acquire education and employment, vote for candidates of their own choice, hold public office, assemble peacefully for any lawful purpose, access to public places, and ensure fulfillment of fundamental rights for the transgender people, residing in Pakistan.

Also, the Upper House of Parliament on Monday passed two bills and witnessed introduction of six private members’ bills which were referred to the relevant standing committees for further consideration. The House passed the Chairman and Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which was sponsored by Senators Syed Shibli Faraz, Dilawar Khan and Naseeb Ullah Bazai. Senator Farooq H Naek opposed the motion to introduce the bill and proposed an amendment in its content. The House approved the amendment and bill was passed after consensus in the House.

Senator Saleem Mandviwalla introduced the Access to the Media (Deaf) Persons Bill, 2022 which was passed by the House. Other introduced bills were the Emigration (Amendment) Bill, 2022; the Al-Ala University Bill, 2022; the Federal Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022; the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Amendment of section 123B, insertion of new section 123C in PPC and subsequent amendments in Schedule II of Cr. P.C) and the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022.

Senator Fawzia Arshad introduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the motion to introduce the bill was not opposed in the House. Senator Dr. Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur introduced the Emigration (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which was also not opposed by any member in the House. Sponsored by Senators Kauda Babar, Dilawar Khan and Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti, a bill – the Al-Ala University Bill, 2022 – was introduced while another bill – the Federal Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 – was introduced by Senator Seemee Ezdi. Both bills were referred to the relevant standing committees for further consideration.

Senator Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah introduced the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Amendment of section 123B, insertion of new section 123C in PPC and subsequent amendments in Schedule II of Cr. P.C) which was also referred to the committee. Senator Mohsin Aziz moved a motion seeking leave to introduce the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2021. However, it was opposed by State Minister for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha and the bill was deferred.

Senator Rubina Khalid moved the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which was referred to the relevant committees. Two bills were withdrawn by the mover after passage of motion under Rule 115. These bills were the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (Amendment of Article 100) and the Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Senator Nuzhat Sadiq moved a motion under Rule 126 (7) for consideration of the Dyslexia Special Measures Bill, 2020 in the joint sitting of parliament which was passed by the House.