The KPK Provincial Assembly’s move to pass a resolution demanding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to grant voting rights to transgender persons is a good symbolic gesture – the KPK government has so far been more supportive than others for transgender rights in the country, and even approved granting Rs200 million in the year’s annual budget. However, the right to determine one’s political representative is only the first step.

Harassment, targeted attacks and an overall negative perception of transgender persons has led to a complete shutout from mainstream society. There is no viable option for employment, no acceptance from the general community – not even their own families – and an overall indifference on part of the federal government. With already such a tough deal, this community must be supported in getting their legal and political rights.

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision of mandating the option of a third gender in NADRA’s records, and hence, allowing for the transgender community to register themselves on the national database still faces a multitude of impediments. Families often do not accept a transgender family member as one of their own – getting a National Identity Card (NIC) without the father’s NIC or family ‘B’ Form is almost impossible.

There are also questions over how the funds granted to the transgender community in KPK are being used, and what the best possible use of this money could be. Awareness raising among the community of accepting transgender persons as any other members of society should obviously be made a priority, but the exclusion from education and employment opportunities has also resulted in severe economic impoverishment of the community. Directly countering this through mandating transgender persons a place in the education system and making provisions for job quotas could work towards countering this. Perhaps vocally announcing the steps the KPK government has taken, and plans to take with the funds allocated could spur the other provincial governments into action as well.

The KPK resolution correctly identifies this as a national issue, the voter registration process of transgender persons can only take place if they are issued valid CNICs, and based on the rough estimates of the number of transgender persons living in the country, those with valid NICs is a small minority. Ultimately, only the federal government can take the initiative to involve transgender persons into the national mainstream, not because they identify themselves as transgendered, but because they are Pakistani citizens, and the state is obligated to protect them and provide them with social services like the rest of the population.