Pakistan has passed two landmark bills that, for the first time ever, secure the rights of transgender people in the country.
On Tuesday, the National Assembly cleared the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017 as well as a legislation that will make amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The bills are set to expand the definition of a trans person in the country, to include “any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the society norms and cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at the time of their birth”, Pakistani media outlet, Dawn, reported.
The amendment bill will make it illegal to prevent trans people in Pakistan from inheriting property, unlawfully evict them from any establishment or deny them entry to educational institutions.
While the rights bill will officially recognize an individual’s gender identity as they perceive it, and will also guarantee all fundamental rights outlined in the Constitution. It also seeks to codify key rights such as the right to hold public office and the right to vote.
This is the first ever legal ruling aimed at enshrining trans rights in Pakistan, curbed only by a 2011 Supreme Court of Pakistan which ruled that passports and computerized national identity cards (CNICs) should include a column for trans people.
This year, under the 2011 ruling, trans activist Farzana Jan became the first person to have a passport issued under the third gender column option.
That same month, in January, Lahore High Court ordered the government to include trans people on the national census.
While the legal ruling is new, Pakistan has a long, but complex history of a muted acceptance of the hijra community, the “third gender” in South Asia of transgender women who were assigned male identities at birth.