Transgender persons bill tabled in Senate

Mumtaz Alvi
Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

ISLAMABAD: With a controversy raging over the legislation about the transgender persons, a bill seeking amendments in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Amendment Act 2018 was introduced in the Senate House on Monday.

The bill aims at reducing suffering, improving living standard and bringing reform in the lives of the deprived segment of society. The bill, moved by Senator Fawzia Arshad of PTI, seeks amendments in definitions of “gender expression” and “gender identity”. Likewise, it also proposes to delete sub-section 4 from Section 3, which says, “A transgender person already issued CNIC by the Nadra shall be allowed to change the name and gender according to his or her self perceived identity on the CNIC, CRC, driving license and passport in accordance with the provisions of the Nadra Ordinance, 2000.”

The piece of legislation also seeks amendments in Sections 7 and 8 related to the share of inheritance and right to education. The statement of objects and reasons of the proposed bill says that this legislative proposal has been brought to fill the gaps and make this Act more effective and worthwhile for reducing suffering, improving standard of living and reforming the most deprived segment of the society.

It states that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act 2018 has been enacted to protect and safeguard the rights of transgender community in Pakistan. Its objective is to ensure provision of rights to own, inherit property, acquire education and employment, vote for candidates of their own choice, hold public office, assemble peacefully for any lawful purpose, access to public places and ensure fulfillment of fundamental rights for the transgender people residing in Pakistan.

“However, various lacunas and loopholes have been observed in this Act that need to be addressed and the benefits need to transferred to the said group of people on priority basis. Moreover, the said Act does not conform to the principles and rules, developed under Sharia for dealing with the issues related to transgender persons in a Muslim society. Hence, these amendments are brought to fill the gaps and make this Act more effective and worthwhile for reducing suffering, improving standard of living and reforming the most deprived segment of the society,” it reads

The House also adopted a bill, incorporating an amendment from ex-chairman Senate and PPP Senator Farooq H Naek in the Chairman and Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) Act 1975. The proposed piece of legislation envisages according the deputy head of the state of a host country’s protocol to chairman Senate and NA speaker while on a foreign visit.

The bill movers were the opposition benches’ Shibli Faraz, Dilawar Khan and Naseebullah Bazai, as Senator Dilawar introduced the bill, while Senator Naek rose to oppose it, saying that there was no provision in the Constitution with regards to the post of chairman and speaker as deputy head of the state of Pakistan.

However, he proposed that an amendment could be included in the bill for according the protocol of deputy head of the state, either of the two, will be visiting. The movers of the bill agreed to it and an amended bill was put to the House, which was passed. The House will now resume Tuesday afternoon.

Earliere, taking part in the debate on a motion moved by the PTI senators in the House, former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani called for initiating a national dialogue over the protection of rights and rule of law and revisiting the ‘charter of democracy’.

Rabbani advocated the need to address what he called the fault lines that threaten the state, including the violation of principles of trichotomy of powers, as the House met for its opening sitting of a new session, and it was a private members day.

He proposed that in the first phase, there should be a dialogue between political stakeholders and an intra-institutional dialogue involving the parliament, the executive and the judiciary should follow, emphasising the end result has to be one in which benefits in terms of protection of rights and rule of law reach the people.

Rabbani contended that the supremacy of Parliament should be recognised, powers of the Senate be enhanced, all foreign agreements must be ratified by the Parliament, and the parliamentary committee on intelligence services should be formed to monitor the performance of intelligence agencies.

He underlined the need for constitutional amendments to reform the electoral laws, strengthen federal, parliamentary and democratic system and demilitarise civil institutions, noting as a consequence of the charter of democracy-II, it will be possible to work on the charter of economy.

In the light of the charter of democracy, an intra-institutional dialogue is required on the plank that all the institutions must discharge their duties, obligations and functions within the ambit prescribed under the Constitution, 1973, respecting the independence of each institution.

The vehicle for the initiation of the dialogue is Parliament, he noted and pointed out, whereas the Senate’s Committee of the Whole provides the ideal forum for such a dialogue. With regards to the proposed intra-institutional dialogue, he said the military bureaucracy and intelligence agencies, under the rules of business of the federal government were under the executive, therefore, the initial dialogue should be based on the premise of non-interference in politics and adherence to the role prescribed under the rules, law and the Constitution.

He was of the view that the initiative for both the phases of the dialogue had to be taken by the Parliament while recalling that the then Chief Justice of Pakistan and the then Chief of the Army Staff were invited to the Committee of the Whole to discuss speedy justice and national security, respectively, when he was the Senate chairman.

He said in terms of political dialogue, the committee should invite all the political parties having representation in the Parliament regardless of their numerical strength. He said in terms of an institutional dialogue, initially, one institution should be invited.

Rabbani also proposed exchange of reports between the institutions and combined sitting of all the institutions to give finality to the recommendations of the Committee at a lateral stage. Moreover, he noted the reports of the political dialogue and the intra-institutional dialogue should be placed in a joint sitting of the Parliament for its approval.

He proposed the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, saying this is not to fix or carry out a trial for criminal liability but it is a commission to heal the wounds of a nation, where the wrong has to be identified and acknowledged by the state, be it against an individual, group, sect or nationality.