Council of Islamic Ideology Throws Wrench in Pakistani Trans-Rights Bill

The constitutional body of Pakistan calls transgender rights law unfit for Islam in the federal Shariat court.

A law introduced in 2018 for transgender people, which allows them to be recognized as their gender without needing any confirmation from the medical board in Pakistan, is unsuitable for Islamic standards, says The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

The 2018 Transgender Persons' (Protection of Rights) bill was created to protect transgender people from discrimination. Along with the movement from various parts of the country, such as from a Pakistani university named Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) provides free education to trans people.

The law allows people to be acknowledged as their gender without a medical permit. It will enable trans people to acquire different identification documents or update gender markers in those documents.

The CII, a religious constitutional body of Pakistan responsible for giving legal advice following the Sharia law, accepted the term that a medical board is unnecessary to confirm a person's gender identity when the bill was introduced. However, this year it said that the law for protecting the rights of trans people is "not in line with Shariah," implying that the law might change in the future.

The CII requested the government to create a new committee that includes CII members, religious scholars, and legal and medical experts to reform the law, as it said that some provisions of the act are "inconsistent with Islamic principles."

Nasreen Jalil, a member of the Senate of Pakistan and chair of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, said the 2018 Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) bill would protect the members of the transgender community from mistreatment and strictly forbids any attacks on their self-esteem.

"The transgender community is opposed to the idea of setting up a medical board that should determine their gender, fearing that they might be subjected to embarrassment and harassment.", said Nasreen.

The CII proposed the new statement after a Pakistani Senator, Mushtaq Ahmed, from the explicitly anti-LGTBQ+ Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party, filed a petition to the Federal Shariat Court with the claim that the bill is unsuitable as per Islamic standards on September 18, 2022.

According to Mushtaq, permitting people to change their gender marker would become a "danger to the family and inheritance systems," as the assets divided by the Islamic system of inheritance depend on the gender of a person. This would result in 220 million people being able to decide “whatever they want.”

This new statement of CII might affect the lives of tens of thousands of trans people living in Pakistan. The 2017 national census, which counted the trans population for the first time, recorded a total of 10,418 trans people in a population of roughly 207 million.

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