Islamabad-A coalition of transgenders, disabled and women rights’ activists was launched on Sunday to take part in electoral process in the upcoming general election.

The coalition of thirty transgender, disabled and women rights’ activists titled Coalition for Inclusive Pakistan (CIP) was launched in Islamabad with the support of Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA), and has representation of the marginalised persons from all over the country.

The purpose of forming the alliance is in line with provisions of the Elections Act 2017 that contain certain positive aspects to facilitate participation of transgender, disabled and women in electoral process.

Taking part in the launching event, the participants urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that the new election law is implemented in letter and spirit. They also appreciated the work being done by gender and disability electoral working group of the ECP and said that CIP would closely work with it for the achievement of their electoral rights. Qamar Naseem, Program Coordinator, Blue Veins said that the barriers that hinder participation of the transgender people, the disabled and women in electoral process and restrict their ability to exercise their right to vote are actually the barriers that hinder their participation in mainstream life.

These barriers put curbs on their ability to exercise their basic rights and fundamental freedoms. He said that the ECP should make arrangements so that transgender voters are able to cast their vote independently and with dignity on equal basis with others and should train polling staff in this regard.

Gulalai Ismail, Executive Director Aware Girls, said that Section 12c required the ECP to conduct public awareness programmes and media campaigns regarding maximum voter enrolment and participation of women in election.

She stressed that transgender people and people with disabilities along with women should also be included in such programmes and campaigns through progressive interpretation of the Section 12c.

Jawaid Rais, president of Disabled Welfare Association, said that it was a welcome development that Section 93 facilitates voters with disabilities to cast their votes through postal ballots.

However, it should be noted that the option of postal ballots supplements and does not supplant the right to vote of the disabled voters in public.

Therefore, the ECP should develop criteria for the selection of polling stations and such a criterion should give preference to polling stations that have greater level of accessibility for wheel chair users. He said that the ECP should develop a mechanism to ensure that inaccessible polling stations are not included in the polling scheme.

Jawaid also urged the ECP to ensure that its public service messages on voter education in the lead up to general elections are delivered in sign language as well so that these messages are accessible for speech and hearing-impaired voters. Similarly, the ECP should create awareness and train polling staff about the right of the blind and visually impaired voters to cast their vote independently, in secret and with dignity with the help of a companion or the polling staff.