Tanzeem-Ittihad-i-Ummat, an obscure group of clerics has made a surprisingly progressive decision, by issuing a fatwa in favour of allowing transgenders to marry. The problem is that this fatwa comes from a little-known religious organisation, and other organisations may very well be issuing counter fatwas of their own in the near future. What this is a token gesture, and for that it is commendable, but in situations like this it is easy to forget that the real issue often gets sidelined after the backlash that follows.

The fatwa goes on to detail the conditions of the marriage; which will only be valid if a transgender that has the ‘genitals of a male’ marries one with those of a female. The lack of information that the average Pakistani currently has on the transgender issue is highlighted by the fatwa itself. The term transgender is ascribed to a person that has a gender identity that is different from their biological sex. This means that often the body itself is not the main problem, with hormonal imbalances causing complex psychological issues that this edict does not even begin to cover.

The efficacy of fatwas in general is questionable. But in a country like Pakistan, they are sometimes the only way to initiate debate on an issue. In the case of transgenders, legal edicts are the only way to ensure that their rights are granted. And fatwas are the beginning, for that long arduous process to be treated as equal citizens of the state. However, the state holds the only real sort of power that can enable the sort of change that the transgenders really need, and one fatwa is a far-cry from actually moving towards a society where transgenders are allowed to marry, or even live in peace.