Thursday, February 16, 2012

Article: Special Report: Despite issues, transgenders celebrate voting rights

Special Report: Despite issues, transgenders celebrate voting rights


Trans­gen­ders took a giant leap towards becom­ing fully fledged cit­i­zens of the land as voter reg­is­tra­tion for the com­mu­ni­ty began in Pun­jab. They were also issued with Com­put­erised Nation­al Iden­ti­ty Cards (CNIC) by the Nation­al Data­base and Reg­is­tra­tion Author­i­ty (NADRA).

Spe­cial coun­ters have been estab­lished across the province to ensure the reg­is­tra­tion of all eunuchs, thought to num­ber about 13,500 in Pun­jab. At least 45 votes were reg­is­tered to trans­gen­ders in Lahore alone on Wednes­day.

The social wel­fare depart­ment said that spe­cial coun­ters have been set up in all 36 dis­tricts in the province at their dis­trict offices, as well as at offices of the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan (ECP).

The day was not all joy, as protests erupt­ed after it emerged NADRA would charge Rs1,000 for each ID card. But the protests achieved their objec­tive. After the fees were can­celled, trans­gen­ders cel­e­brat­ed and chant­ed slo­gans laud­ing Pun­jab Chief Min­is­ter Shah­baz Sharif and Chief Jus­tice Iftikhar Muham­mad Chaudhry.

Anoth­er issue that has cropped up involves the gen­der and pater­ni­ty to be stat­ed on the CNICs, which is yet to be resolved. Accord­ing to NADRA, the cards will bear the father's name of the trans­gen­ders, who would pre­fer their 'guru' to be named instead. The issue is set to be set­tled by the Supreme Court next month.

The gen­der col­umn is also a mat­ter of con­fu­sion. It seems that, in some parts of Pun­jab, NADRA will term the gen­der 'female'. Orig­i­nal­ly, through, a NADRAspokesman said in a state­ment that as per the Supreme Court's instruc­tions, third gen­ders could have male trans­gen­der, female trans­gen­der or Khunsa-e-mushkil writ­ten on their ID card, accord­ing to their own pref­er­ence.

In Rawalpin­di, at least 21 vot­ers were reg­is­tered and 25 NICs were issued to mem­bers of the trans­gen­der com­mu­ni­ty. Many eunuchs refused to obtain a CNICcard, though, as Nadra offi­cials ofNADRA pressed them to enter the name of their actu­al father instead of their guru.

Almas Bobi, rep­re­sent­ing a eunuchs' asso­ci­a­tion in Rawalpin­di, said they 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 male and the name of gurus is men­tioned in the col­umn of father," Almas said. "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."

But at the end of the day, opti­mism reigned supreme as oth­ers were look­ing for­ward to play­ing a fuller part in polit­i­cal life. "The CNIC and right to vote will increase our self-confidence and self-respect. We will fur­ther ask for employ­ment quo­tas for eunuchs in dif­fer­ent fields," said Miss Sana.

Rawalpin­di Com­mis­sion­er Zahid Saeed said if there were any issues, they 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's provin­cial gen­er­al man­ag­er, Brig (r) Zahid Hus­sain, toldThe Express Tri­bune that the process of voter reg­is­tra­tion of trans­gen­ders would begin on Jan­u­ary 28.

Brig Hus­sain said that Sindh was the first province to issue the new cards to the eunuchs. "About a month ago, we issued the mod­i­fied NICs to the eunuchs. In the new cards, the trans­gen­der in the gen­der cat­e­go­ry have been men­tioned as khawa­ja sirah.

Up north, how­ev­er, cul­tur­al con­straints and a lack of under­stand­ing about the trans­gen­der com­mu­ni­ty in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa have delayed the reg­is­tra­tion process for a nation­al iden­ti­ty card.

Nesho, 25, was born as Zee­shan but prefers to be referred to in the fem­i­nine pro­noun. She has not vis­it­ed her house in the last 17 years.

"In Pak­thun soci­ety we are con­sid­ered a stig­ma, we can­not go back to our family," she says, adding that she lives with her guru as she has nowhere else to go.

Since the gov­ern­ment decid­ed to reg­is­ter the trans­gen­der com­mu­ni­ty, Nee­sha and oth­ers of her com­mu­ni­ty belong­ing to Pakhtun fam­i­lies have not been able to get the IDs of their par­ents to com­plete the process for their own reg­is­tra­tion. "I have broth­ers and they find me humil­i­at­ing to their honor," she says with a brave smile.

Farzana, the pres­i­dent of the She­male Asso­ci­a­tion in Peshawar, says that, with the gov­ern­ment reluc­tant to issue NICswith the name of the guru, there is lit­tle hope that the peo­ple of her com­mu­ni­ty will be reg­is­tered. "Whether in legal or social mat­ters, it's the guru that's responsible," she says.

Anoth­er prob­lem is the num­ber of Afghans in the trans­gen­der com­mu­ni­ty. "The sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan is not com­fort­ing to our kind at all; our peo­ple are sex­u­al­ly harassed and some­times even tor­tured, leav­ing no other option but to migrate to Pakistan," says Farzana of Afghan eunuchs.

"We have lost our conscience," says Farzana, adding a som­bre note to an oth­er­wise cel­e­bra­to­ry day. "However," she says, "it's our iden­ti­ty that we can be proud of."

(Read: Transgender rights)

Pub­lished in The Express Tri­bune, Jan­u­ary 26th, 2012.

(Sent from Flipboard)

No comments: