Transgender persons being enrolled as Pak voters

Last Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 20:18

Islamabad: Authorities across Pakistan`s
most populous province of Punjab have started registering
transgender persons as voters in line with an order from the
Supreme Court, though several thorny issues are impeding the
process.

The registration of transgender people, or eunuchs as
they are commonly known in the Indian subcontinent, began in
cities like Rawalpindi, Lahore and Faisalabad yesterday, with
officials from the National Database and Registration
Authority (NADRA) including their names in computerised
voters` lists and issuing them computerised national identity
cards.

Acting on a petition filed by a civil society activist,
the apex court has ordered federal and provincial authorities
to safeguard the inheritance rights of transgender people and
to register them as voters.

Thanks to the court`s directives, several government
departments, including NADRA, have set aside some jobs for
transgender people.

Special counters have been established across Punjab to
ensure the registration of transgender people, whose
population in the province is estimated at 13,500.

However, the process was not without hiccups, officials
said.

Though a list of 249 transgender people of Rawalpindi
district was prepared by the Election Commission, only 17
eunuchs came to the designated office yesterday to enrol their
names.

Most of them did not possess computerised national
identity cards, which are mandatory for the enrolment of
voters, officials said.

In Lahore, the capital of Punjab, at least 45 transgender
people were registered as voters. Officials said the Social
Welfare Department had set up special counters in all 36
districts of Punjab for the registration process.

When the process got underway in Lahore, the eunuchs
staged protests after they found out that NADRA would charge
Rs 1,000 for each identity card.

Following the protests, authorities cancelled the fees
and transgender people lauded Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz
Sharif and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Officials also faced problems due to two other issues-
the gender to be assigned to the eunuchs in their identity
cards and the insistence of some of them that the names of
their `gurus` be included in the cards instead of the names of
their fathers.

According to NADRA, the identity cards will bear the
father`s name but some eunuchs refused to accept identity
cards that did not include the names of their gurus.

This issue is expected to be settled by the Supreme Court
next month.

Though NADRA had originally stated that eunuchs could
list their gender as male, female or "khunsa-e-mushkil" on
their identity cards, authorities in some parts of Punjab have
opted to list them only as females.

Almas Bobby, who heads a eunuchs` association in
Rawalpindi, told The Express Tribune that transgender people
would inform the Supreme Court next month about the
non-registration of names of gurus by NADRA officials.

"Many of us had old identity cards where our sex is
mentioned as male and the name of gurus is mentioned in the
column for father’s name.

"There are many of our friends who do not want to have
the name of their father after they were abandoned in
childhood by their families and they were brought up by their
gurus," Bobby said.

Officials said transgender people who registered as
voters could contest elections at the national and provincial
levels.

Rawalpindi Commissioner Zahid Saeed said any issues
raised by the eunuchs would be decided by the Supreme Court
and the registration process would be completed in accordance
with new directions from the court.

In Sindh, NADRA general manager Zahid Hussain said the
process of registering transgender people as voters would
begin on January 28.

"Cultural constraints and a lack of understanding about
the transgender community" have delayed the process in the
more conservation Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, media reports
said.

Farzana, president of the Shemale Association of
Khyber-pakhtunkhwa capital Peshawar, said the government is
reluctant to issue identity cards with the names of gurus and
there is little hope that eunuchs will be registered.

According to records submitted to the Supreme Court by
the government, there are 80,000 eunuchs in Pakistan.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 20:18

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