- Chief Justice Nisar constitutes special committee to ensure provision of free CNICs to transgender persons within three weeks
- Says mistreatment of transgender community will not be tolerated, orders special courts for community’s security
LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday constituted a special committee to ensure the provision of free Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC) to transgender persons within three weeks.
The CJP was presiding over a two-member bench of the SC hearing the suo motu case on the issue at the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry.
During the proceedings, the CJP remarked that the CNICs should be issued through the one-window mechanism, adding that the SC will monitor the progress of the process online. “I myself will monitor the entire process.”
He observed that special courts will be formed for the security of the transgender community.
“The problems of the transgender communities cannot be solved until they are provided legal security,” the CJP noted.
“We will not tolerate any kind of mistreatment or eve-teasing of the transgender community,” he stressed.
“All those transgender persons who have CNICs should be allowed to vote. Khawaja Seras (transgenders) are an important part of our society,” Chief Justice Nisar added. “We don’t know about the government but we will try to provide all legal provisions to the transgender persons,” he observed.
“Whether the state steps in or not, the judiciary will do everything in its capacity to ensure that the transgender community gets its due. As a society, we should be ashamed for being inconsiderate towards them,” the CJP remarked.
The chief justice also observed that those transgenders already possessing identity cards should be given the right to vote.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the other member of the bench, observed that reservation of special seats in the assemblies was contingent on their population.
COMMITTEES ON PROVINCIAL, DISTRICT LEVELS:
During the course of the hearing, Akhuwat Foundation chief Dr Amjad Saqib recommended that the committees should be formed on a provincial as well as district levels.
He suggested that every province’s committee should be headed by the provincial chief secretary and should include members from the social welfare department, Baitul Mal, women’s welfare, home department, Punjab social protection department and the health department. At the district level, Dr Saqib advised that committees should also be created which should be led by the deputy commissioner, adding that the committees should also have representatives from the bar association.
He also suggested restraining the use of words or phrases which are aimed at ridiculing the transgender community.
The CJP observed that the court had previously directed the use of the word “maseehi” to replace the previously coined term “esai” when referring to members of the Christian community and suggested that a similar action could be taken for the transgender community whereby they are prevented from being the subject of mockery.
“It is our duty to provide all minorities with protection and dignity,” he acknowledged, adding that the court will ensure implementation of Dr Amjad’s recommendations.
The court sought the committee’s immediate response in the matter, which was provided within an hour of deliberations between members of the body that included Akhuwat Foundation President Professor Humayun Ehsan, Dr Amjad Saqib and the Punjab chief secretary and advocate general.
The chief secretary recommended that identity cards be provided to transgenders free of cost within seven days. He informed the court that 40 committees have been formed for the purpose at provincial and district levels.
The CJP instructed authorities to conduct workshops to raise awareness and shed light on the issues faced by the community. He said that the committee will be provided the platform of law and justice commission to organise the workshops.
He also ordered the formation of a 10-member nationwide committee which will conduct informative seminars for the transgenders.
The CJP took notice of the matter during a visit to Foundation House, Lahore where transgender persons complained about the issue, a press release by the Supreme Court said.
Foundation House is a shelter facility for transgender persons over the age of 50 in addition for those seeking treatment for AIDS or hepatitis. Free medical treatment and food is provided at the facility.
Earlier, Justice Nisar took notice of transgender individuals being pressurised by the police into leaving Mardan.
Vision Pakistan, an NGO, had moved the SC on behalf of the beleaguered community, claiming that the police had been conducting raids and harassing individuals to force them out of Mardan. The CJP then directed the Mardan district and sessions judge to look into the matter and apprise the SC on the situation.
Transgender persons in Pakistan face a number of difficulties in obtaining basic services even though their rights are enshrined in the country’s law.
Earlier this year, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2017 was approved by the parliament.
According to the bill, transgender persons will be able to register to obtain a driver’s licence and passport, will have the option to get their gender changed in National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) records and harassment of transgenders will be prohibited in and outside their homes.
Moreover, they will not be discriminated against by educational institutions, employers, in trade and health services, and when using public transport and buying or selling or renting property. The bill also provides for a safe house for transgenders, to be built by the government, and provide them with medical and educational facilities and psychological counselling.
Separate rooms will be established at jails where transgenders could be detained and in addition to all basic rights, they will be entitled to inherit property. The government will also have to take steps to ensure employment opportunities for transgenders.
According to the bill, transgender persosn will have the right to vote in all national, provincial and local government elections and they will not be discriminated against in their pursuit of a public office. And anyone found guilty of forcing a transgender person to beg will be sentenced to six months in prison and served a fine of Rs50,000.
Following the passage of the bill, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government issued driving licenses to two transgender individuals. In addition, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) also initiated plans to provide three gender categories for CNIC registration forms.