Thousands of Pakistanis who identify as transgender will vote for the first time as transgender citizens.
This series of firsts comes after a landmark law passed in May. The Transgender Persons Act allows citizens to self-identify as male, female, or a mix of both genders, and to have that identity registered on official documents. It also guarantees rights such as inheritance and running for public office or assembly and outlaws discrimination.
At least 500,000 people identify as transgender in Pakistan, a country of 207 million, and at least 55 have been killed since 2015, according to the TransAction Alliance advocacy group.
In Karachi, a city of 20 million people, activists and members of the community claim that although the legal framework may be in place, it is not being implemented.
For instance, some transgender individuals told reportors that they faced challenges at the authority responsible for issuing identity cards to process their documents.
She bid for a seat in the 2013 election, but will not run this year. Activist Bindiya Rana runs Gender Interactive Collective, an advocacy group for transgender rights.
She claims that the form to file her nomination at the election commission office did not include an option for transgender under the gender section.
“If I am fighting for rights of transgender citizens and the nomination paper has no provision for me, then why am I doing this? We are legally entitled to have that, our bill has been passed in the national assembly, so why must we accept only male and female boxes?”
A source at the election commission, who did not want to be named, pinned the blame on the National Database and Registration Authority’s administration.
“I had a previously issued ID card as a male, and it was a lot of trouble of getting a new one. When I went to the National Database and Registration Authority, I was asked for a medical test.Student activist Aradhiya Khan said she faced difficulties when attempting to organise her identification documents.
“How does a medical test decide if I am a transgender when the government has given me the provision to identify myself as one? The discrimination has no end in sight.”
Sixty seats are reserved for women in the national assembly, and 10 for minorities.