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Pakistani Clerics Issue Fatwa for Transgender Rights, Including Marriage

Pakistani Clerics Issue Fatwa for Transgender Rights, Including Marriage

This week, fifty prominent Pakistani clerics issued a fatwa offering conditional rights for transgender people under Islamic law. The men, associated with the Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat sector based out of Lahore, declared that under their branch of law, it be necessary for a transgender person to be granted equality in terms of marriage, inheritance, and funerals.
The constraint upon which freedom was contingent, however, remained an individual’s ability to pass as simply one gender or the other – in other words, it maintained the discrimination against non-binary identifying people. Someone with “visible signs of both genders” still may not marry anyone, according to the fatwa.

The constraint upon which freedom was contingent, however, remained an individual’s ability to pass as simply one gender or the other – in other words, it maintained the discrimination against non-binary identifying people. Someone with “visible signs of both genders” still may not marry anyone, according to the fatwa.

Other measures featured in the statement concerned the general treatment of transgender people, noting it was unlawful to ridicule people based off their transgender identity.
Strong language in the ruling, as quoted by Muhammad Zia Ul Haq Naqshbandi, the leader of the group, informs that those who denied transgendered sons or daughters inheritance were, “inviting the wrath of God.”

Strong language in the ruling, as quoted by Muhammad Zia Ul Haq Naqshbandi, the leader of the group, informs that those who denied transgendered sons or daughters inheritance were, “inviting the wrath of God.”

Again however, the specifics in the wording reinforce the binary nature of “sons” or “daughters,” in corroboration with the fatwa’s deprivation of rights to those with “visible signs of both genders.”
Such a detail also fuels issues for those needing to prove one specific gender to the government. Activists continue to press for religious inclusion of a non-binary option in gender, in addition to a legal one. Many demand that the Pakistani government inaugurate transgender as an option on official national identity cards.
“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,” said activist Parveen. “I was kicked out from my family in my childhood. Now authorities are asking for my father’s card number for my ID, but my family refuse to even see my face.”
Despite the supportive leanings of the two-page religious ruling, this fatwa exists merely as a set of published words and ideas – after all, it is not in anyway embedded into the law, let alone digested in the minds of those who exercise and enforce such regulations and decrees. A Trans Action Alliance regional president from Peshawar explicitly spoke to this dilemma.
“This decree is not legally binding and will hardly make a difference. But we are happy that somebody talked about us, too,” said Farzana Naz. She lamented the explicit exclusion of people carrying “visible signs of both genders,” noting such individuals often face a brunt of the discrimination.
In fact, Naz noted that some leaders, for centuries, have issued laws supporting rights for transgender people, but attitudes simply have not budged enough. Such a measure from recent history includes the 2012 declaration by the Pakistani Supreme Court, a legal government branch of course, advocating for the equal rights to inheritance for transgender people.
Qamar Naseem, however, is quick to highlight the historical element of this particular declaration. “This is the first time in history that Muslim clerics have raised their voices in support of the rights of transgender persons,” said the transgender activist, who also works with Trans Action primarily throughout Peshawar.

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 “This is the first time in history that Muslim clerics have raised their voices in support of the rights of transgender persons,” said the transgender activist.

Working with both the people and the law will continue to be instrumental in facilitating real change.
While, whether historical and governmental or groundbreaking and religious, policy alone is unfathomably far from a solution to cultural mindsets, there needs to be some sort of visible, longterm cooperation between the two. Perhaps some of the lagging synergy originates in the enforcement of laws by ground-level officials.
Naseem and his group collect data from crimes throughout the region. He cites a minimum of 46 transgender deaths or 300 cases of rape or torture in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; yet notes police have reported less than half the deaths and close to none of the 300 rapes or tortures.
Like many, Naseem aims to remain optimistic in the favorable nature of the fatwa, though reminds, “We have to go further for transgender people and the country needs to introduce legislation on it.”

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