Rabia Umaima Ahmed

Lahore - After a long struggle transgender people in Pakistan are being recognised and included in the upcoming Population Censes of Pakistan as `equal citizens’.

A press statement issued by the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP –Pakistan) says, “In an official letter written by the Chief Statistical Officer, Bureau of Statistics Ms Aysha Khalid to Director Ministry of Human Rights Punjab Ms Lubna Mansoor, transgender people will be the part of National Population Census , as per the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2012. Transgender people have their own identity and they are equal citizens of Pakistan.”

The notification further says, “In compliance with the orders passed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan granting separate status to the transgender segment of the population, the PBS developed an additional code for this category and code ‘3’ has been earmarked for such people under the column ‘Sex.’”

About the procedure of collecting data on transgender population, the notification says, “The manuals of instructions have been amended accordingly. The data processing software has also been amended to process the data for response ‘3’. The enumerators will be given proper training and provided with training manuals that could be helpful for them to count and collect information about the transgender population.

The last census was conducted in 1998 with 52.03 percent males and 47.97 percent females. The total population of Pakistan was 130,857,717. Transgenders were not included in that census . Due to the efforts of civil society, NGOs and human right activists, the PBS has decided to include them in the census .

Director General (Human Rights), Ministry of Human Rights, Muhammad Arshad and regional director (human rights, Punjab) Lubna Mansoor have confirmed receiving the notification.

The efforts, put in by Awaaz and Accountability Programme, have been appreciated for taking up the plight of transgender people. The decision to include transgender in Population Census was taken after an advocacy process was initiated under the South Asia Partnership – Pakistan’s Aawaz and Accountability Programme. A delegation of Aawaz Lahore district forum including PTI MPA from Punjab Assembly Nausheen Hamid, Neely Rana, Risham Adnan, Naveed Khan and Sohail Ahmad had a detailed meeting with the joint Census Commissioner Malik Muhammad Nawaz Arshad of Federal Bureau of Statistic at his office in Lahore. The delegation demanded the inclusion of transgender in Population Census so that the most deprived segment of the population could be considered while planning development programmes, schemes and polices and could have access to health, education, livelihood programmes and other required `facilities.

A spokesperson of transgender rights Qamar Naseem, speaking to The Nation about the notification, said, “This is not the first time such notifications have been issued. Last time when the forms were issued it had a column for ‘others’ apart from male and female gender. The bureau made a U-turn on it later.”

He further said, “We are going file a writ petition in the court of law for some other serious issues related to it, in an attempt to ensure that the Pakistan Population Census Commission and Pakistan Statistical Bureau keep the third column in it. In the third column there should be three options male transgender, female transgender and intersexual. People usually tend to miss out this part. We also want the court to give transgender male and female a right to make marriage amongst them which is their right as human beings. They should not be charged for it under Pakistan Penal Code Section 377.”

Qamar also spoke about Nadra ID cards, “The court had issued orders to give them Nadra cards, and handful CNIC’s were issued, in which these people were not only mentioned as transgender but male or female too. Rest of the transgenders did not get CNIC’s. A proper drive needs to be launched to create awareness so that they get their cards first, only then the census should take place otherwise it will be of no use for these people. They have already suffered enough in past years.”

Paaro, a transgender from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa spoke to The Nation and explained the dreadful conditions they are facing daily, “We are not recognised as human beings, leave aside Pakistanis. The only job that we are allowed to do is dance in parties, weddings and be sex workers. Neither we get a regular income nor we are given jobs. People make fun of us when we are out on the roads. They harass us and many don’t even talk to us. Rather they push us away. We are happy that few people are raising their voice for us but there is a lot that needs to be done.”