Pakistan Federal Shariat Court rules against landmark transgender rights legislation News
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Pakistan Federal Shariat Court rules against landmark transgender rights legislation

The Pakistani Federal Shariat Court struck down major portions of the landmark Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act Friday.

The court, which determines whether laws comply with Islamic doctrine, ruled that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was “against the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet.” The court claimed that the Quran acknowledges only sex assigned at birth, and therefore self-identification of gender is against the precepts of Islam. It went on to state that:

We have heard the arguments of the parties and experts at length, reviewed the research and other material provided by the parties as discussed hereinabove and we have come to the conclusion to firstly declare that according to Islamic injunctions as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah, the gender of a person is subject to the biological sex of a person, therefore, gender of a person must conform to the biological sex of a person.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, passed in 2018, allowed for self-identified gender recognition on all state and legal documents and prohibited discrimination against transgender Pakistanis in employment, public accommodations and public transit. It also defined the inheritance portions for transgender citizens based on the Quranically prescribed amounts for men and women and created a third inheritance category for those that are non-binary. Finally, the law protected the right to vote, the right to public education and right to freedom of assembly for transgender individuals.

Transgender activists announced their intention to appeal the ruling, with Nayyab Ali, executive director of Transgender Rights Consultants Pakistan, stating, “We absolutely intend to appeal the court’s findings to the Supreme Court, and we will prevail.” 

Human rights groups condemned the court’s ruling, with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) saying in a statement:

HRCP is greatly dismayed by the Federal Shariat Court’s regressive ruling on the Transgender Persons Act 2018. In denying trans persons the right to self-perceived gender identity, this move seeks the erasure of an entire demographic and its fundamental rights. Moreover, the ruling undermines the will of the Parliament. HRCP hopes that the Supreme Court will overturn this decision. Parliament must not amend this act at any cost.