Every child has right to live freely

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Every child in Pakistan deserves the opportunity to learn and grow freely, irrespective of his/her caste or class. They have right to nourish in safe and healthy environment. No one can deprive them of their fundamental rights either state or any individual.  November 20 is celebrated as Universal Day for Children all over the world every year. Pakistan seemed to have failed to protect the child rights. Sana Khawaja, the focal person of an NGO, said that around 2.5 billion children were out of schools in the world. They are deprived of education and health facilities as well, she added. Children work at hotels, workshops and other odd places.

According to the constitution of Pakistan, Article 25-A, “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years.” But the situation on ground is totally different. No policy has been introduced by the government to protect children. Civil society is also concerned that despite visible incidents of violence against children, the provincial governments still could not introduce child protection policies followed by a comprehensive plan of action to ensure protection to children from all forms of abuse and exploitation, said by Iftikhar Mubarik, a children rights activist.

He added that the newly pledged Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) especially the 16.2 clearly asked the governments to take all possible legislative, administrative and other measures to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children. In addition, SDG 8.7 stresses to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms. Iftikhar demanded that provincial governments include the child domestic labour on the list of hazardous occupation, and put a complete ban on this contemporary form of slavery.

Salman Abid, a human rights activist, said Pakistan sanctioned the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) 26 year back, but the serious attention was not paid by federal and provincial governments. He demanded the government of Pakistan take immediate action regarding  ‘The National Commission on the Rights of Children bill’ which was introduced in National Assembly back in March 2015. This bill is still pending with National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice. He urged the federal government to accelerate the process of enactment of legislation that protected the rights of children, and set up a sovereign commission on the rights of children.

Waheed Akhtar Ansari, director general, Social Welfare Punjab, rejected the allegations leveled by human rights activists. “It is myth now that government departments have not been working for the betterment of children. Government owns all the children of state and is busy protecting the children from violence and abuse,” he asserted.

According to him, the department has finalised the draft of Child Rights Commission (CRC). The draft has been sent to the federal government for its approval. Awareness of rights is very important for all citizens. By this commission, people and children will be educated and made aware of their rights. He said, “United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is extending help to our all care centres on different levels, including recreational, educational, professional training and vocational. NGOs and civil society both are playing nice role in the protection of children rights, he said.


Protecting Children’s Rights

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Children are the future pillars of our nation. They are tomorrow’s politicians, scientists, doctors, architectures and teachers.They are innocent, admirable, and pure and loved by everyone. To increase the awareness of people towards the rights, care and education of childrenthe date of 20th November has been set to celebrate Universal Children’s Day all over the world.

Universal Children’s Day is celebrated every year with a lot of organized programmes including cultural and fun activities in many countries. Government and non-government organisations, schools, and private bodies conducts variety of competitionsas well as events for the children to let them know about their rights and make them happy and cheer.

History of the day:

It was the year 1954, when the General Assembly of the United Nations was first announced Universal Children’s Day to encourage children of all races, creeds and religions to spend time together, getting to know each other and appreciating each other’s differences, and to prompt governments world-wide to pay more attention to the welfare of their youngest citizens.

Three years later, on 20th November 1959 the United Nations General Assemblyadopted the ‘Declaration’ of the Rights of the Child. The 20th November is also a date when in 1989 the UN General Assembly adopted the ‘Convention’ on the Rights of the Child. Since 1990, Universal Children’s Day is celebrated as the anniversary of the date that the UN General Assembly adopted both the declaration and the convention on children’s rights.

Fundamental rights of children:


Every child has right to feel safe regardless of his social value, and culture affinity. Every child should be protected from violence, abuse and neglect, exploitation and violence. Unfortunately in many countries including Pakistan child abuse takes place at home, in school, in institutions, at work, in the community, in armed conflict and natural disasters.

Children have right to live with prosperity, and should be protected from human trafficking. No child should be punished, humiliates, or insulted by adults.

The UNICEF defines child labour as some type of work performed by children below the age of 18. They should be protected from labour to earn money. Child labourcauses mental, physical, moral, and social harm.They should be nourished and cared very attentively especially by their parents. They should be given full time to enjoy their childhood and study in school. And, it is possible only when we protect them from child labour.


Every child has a right to get quality education, which helps him to develop his personality, talent, mental and physical abilities. All children must be able to go to school, and thereby benefit from the same opportunities for a secured future.

Education is a powerful tool to get rid of poverty. It ensures child survival, better growth, and development. Equal opportunity of education ends the social inequality. On average, one additional year of education can increase an individual’s earnings by 10 percent. Furthermore, girls’ education is particularly important for future generations. Better-educated women tend to be healthier than uneducated women.

Children who are disabled, either mentally or physically, have a right to special care and education so they can lead full and independent live.

Freedom of opinion:

All children have a right to be able to give their opinion when adults are making decisions about them. Parents should take child’s opinion seriously. It is their right to say what they think through speaking, writing, drawing etc. All children have a right to get information from TV, radio, newspapers and the internet, which should be appropriate of their age. It is parent’s responsibility to help children learn what is right and wrong.

Health and food:

All children have a right to good health and good quality health care. All children should have clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so they stay healthy.All children have a right to a decent standard of living. It is the responsibility of government to support families who cannot afford to provide a decent standard of living for their children.

Violation against children rights:

Children around the world are facing poverty, disease, inequity,and mistreatment every day. Many are unable to get primary education. Millions are displayed from their native countries and many have been separated from their parents.According to the estimate of the International Labor Organisation (ILO), around 246 million children aged 5 to17 years are engaged in child labour around the globe and of these 179 million are employed in the most rigorous forms of labour.

In Pakistan, violation of children’s rights is common and many cases remain unnotified. Children are subjected to torture in work places and educational institutions, sexual exploitation and abuse in urban areas in general and the rural areas of Pakistan in particular.

“Many children never see the inside of a classroom. Others drop out because their classes are overcrowded or their teachers poorly trained.”

In Pakistan, one child in six dies before the age of five. The nutritional status of children is very poor: 35% of them are underweight; more than 50% suffer from stunted growth, and around 9% from emaciation. Each day, around 1,100 Pakistani children less than five years old die from diarrhea and illnesses related to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

There are around 11 million children performing domestic tasks and working in agriculture. Other children work in the textile industry (specifically, making carpets), construction, or even the automotive industry. Children in carpet factories sometimes work up to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. Very often, sleeping, eating, and working are all done in the same place.

It is believed that only 20% of sexual abuse cases are reported in Pakistan. We can make lasting change in a child’s life by helping provide nutrition and health, childhood development and education. Parents need to be aware about the importance of both, children and their childhood. They must understand about the importance of education in their children’s life and their role in the nation’s development.

Ref: http://www.brecorder.com/weekend-magazine/0/104630/

PM wants to make child-friendly Pakistan

PM wants to make child-friendly Pakistan

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has urged the federal ministries and provincial governments to sincerely undertake the required legislative, administrative and social sector reforms for creating an enabling environment for children in Pakistan.

“I urge the civil society, NGOs, philanthropists, international development partners, media and corporate sectors to come forward as partners and play an effective role for protection of child rights to make Pakistan a child-friendly country,” the prime minister said that in a message on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day to be observed on Sunday.

The day is celebrated globally to sensitise the world on the crucially important aspect of everyone’s life. He said that Pakistan joined the world community to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its provisions in letter and spirit. The UN Convention provides the basic principles for the rights of children.

He said that it was government’s responsibility to ensure children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation as envisaged in the UNCRC. “It is indeed our national and constitutional duty to protect the best interests of our children. Children are a vulnerable segment of any society and at the same time the most precious investment for ensuring a better future,” he said.

He called for reaffirming the commitment for protection of child rights to make children useful and productive citizens. He said that the government has promulgated the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 2016 with regard to Child Abuse, Child Pornography and enhancing the minimum age of criminal liability.

He said that it was pleasing that Punjab and Sindh provinces had introduced amendments in the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. He mentioned his approval of a National Plan of Action for Human Rights which addressed the issues of child protection, discrimination, labour, education and other measures for their wellbeing.

He also expressed the hope for establishment of an autonomous and independent National Commission for Child Rights in the near future. “We recognise that there are immense challenges in improving on-ground situation for children in Pakistan, but our government is continuously undertaking reforms to cope with these challenges,” he said.

He said that the Ministry of Human Rights was also making efforts for protection and promotion of child rights in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders and practitioners in Pakistan. He appreciated the UN agencies and NGOs for advocating and highlighting the child rights and hoped that they would continue to pursue this important mission with the same zeal and vigour.

Sindh Minorities Rights Commission

Sindh Assembly number game for CM Sindh elections

The Sindh Assembly passed on Thursday a law to establish the Sindh Minorities Rights Commission, which will be the driving force to resolve the human rights issues faced by minority communities in Sindh.

The private bill, titled ‘Establishment of Sindh Minorities Rights Commission 2015’, was tabled by Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PML-F) parliamentary leader Nand Kumar, but was referred to standing committee on minorities in January, this year, for deliberation on the issue. After clause by clause consideration and a certain amendments by committee members, the bill was sent back to the assembly and subsequently passed unanimously.

“It will provide a platform to look into the various grievances of minority communities and to monitor and suggest the mechanism for accelerating pace of socio-economic development and protect the identity of minorities at provincial level,” said Kumar, adding that the bill will also reiterate the values of religious harmony, tolerance, respect and peace, which were inherent in the creation of Pakistan.

The bill also referred the landmark judgment of Supreme Court on 19 June, 2014, which said, “It is felt that there should be a Minorities’ Rights Commission at national and provincial level.”

According to the law, the commission will consist of 11 members (who will be nominated by the Sindh government) having knowledge and seven years of practical experience in the matters of minorities’ rights and human rights in general. “Six members including the chairperson shall be from among the minorities’ community,” the law states.

Regarding the members, the bill said that at least 33% of the commission will consist of female members belonging to all ethnic and religious groups from non-Muslims communities. “The government through public notice will invite suggestions from suitable persons for the appointment of chairperson,” states the law. “The members of the commission after proper scrutiny will appoint their head for the period of four years.”

Regarding functions of the commission, the law states that the issues of the minorities will be reviewed and the commission will suggest the repeal or amendment in existing laws or new law to eliminate discrimination and safeguard and promote the interest and welfare of non-Muslims.

“It will also sponsor, steer [and] encourage research to generate information [and] analysis and maintain database relating to minorities,” said the salient features of the bill, adding that the commission will also call the reports of various government departments and institutions while inquiring into complaints of violation of rights of minorities.

The commission while inquiring into the complaints under this law shall have the powers of a civil court trying a suit under civil procedure to summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath.

According to the law, the statement recoded by the commission shall have status of Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) and every proceeding be deemed to be judicial proceeding for the purpose of Section 195 [of] CRPC, which says: “The prosecution for contempt of lawful authority of public servant, for offence against public justice or offences relating to documents given as evidence.”

For the speedy trial of human rights offences against the minority communities, the Sindh government may in consultation with the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court (SHC) by notification in the official gazette, specify a court of sessions to be the ‘Human Rights Court’ for the district to try such offences.

Though the bill pertaining to forced conversion of minorities was also on the agenda, it was deferred till next private day, which will fall on November 22.

Resolution passed

Sindh Assembly also passed a resolution directing the education department to take appropriate action to include learning of the Holy Quran as part of the education curriculum.

Ref: http://tribune.com.pk/story/1234756/time-inclusion-law-passed-establish-sindh-minorities-rights-commission/

Pakistanis among world’s most diabetes-prone nations

High stress levels and unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits are contributing to an alarming rise in diabetes in Pakistan, contrary to global trends.

According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization and the Diabetes Association of Pakistan, from 1994 to 1998, there were around seven million people suffering from diabetes in the country.

While there are no fresh surveys or official figures available about the current situation, rough estimates by health experts suggest that this figure has since jumped to 30 to 40 million Pakistanis, or around 20 per cent of the country’s population.

Physicians and medical personnel directly dealing with diabetic patients, however, have more stark figures to share.

Every third patient who visits the outpatient departments at public hospitals suffers from diabetes, said Professor Dr Jamal Zafar, a diabetes specialist at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims).

Dr Zafar added that a pilot survey of a congested area in Rawalpindi showed that around 32 per cent of the residents there suffered from some form of diabetes.

The medical practitioner was of the view that the number of people dying from various complications arising out of diabetes was also quite high and increasing. By contrast, this figure is steadily falling in Europe and other developed countries owing to advances in treatment, awareness and preventative measures.

At the Diabetic Foot Clinic in Pims, around 10 per cent of the patients lose their legs or feet due to gangrene owing to diabetes, much higher than the global average of seven per cent.

“Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation worldwide, but in Pakistan people comparatively suffer more from such problems at a younger age,” said Dr Zafar.

Talking about why there was an above average prevalence rate for diabetes in Pakistan, Dr Zafar offered that people either did not know if they were suffering from the disease due to lack of awareness or that they did not undergo regular screenings after diagnosis and maintain the prescribed sugar levels.

He added that diabetes can be managed and its consequences avoided or delayed with due care in diet, physical activity, medication and regular screenings.

Unfortunately, he lamented little to no work has been done to prevent and cure the disease at the government or the private level- including non-governmental organisations, educational institutions and media.

Awareness walk in Presidency

President Mamnoon Hussain Sunday urged the people, particularly the youth, to spend a healthy life by developing habits of exercise and hard work to better serve the country.

“The first shipment of trade cargo is being shipped today from Gwadar Port. This will create new opportunities for the country,” President Hussain said while addressing participants of an awareness walk held at the President House in connection with World Diabetes Day.

“Now Pakistan is destined to prosper. Keep yourself ready to benefit from these opportunities. For this you will have to keep yourself fit through a healthy lifestyle,” he urged.

The President added that the role and responsibility of an individual was far more important than that of the state in guarding against diabetes. “Healthy habits like use of boiled water, keeping utensils clean, diet control, walk and regular exercise can keep us safe from diseases,” he added.

Later, a symbolic walk was arranged by the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University which was attended by the President and hundreds of people, including men, women and children with renowned figures including Minister of State for CADD Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Danish Ambassador to Pakistan Ole Thonke, Vice Chancellor of the University Dr Javed Akram and other medical practitioners.

At the end of the walk, the President along with other participants, also released white and blue pigeons.

Ref: http://tribune.com.pk/story/1230075/sweet-threat-pakistanis-among-worlds-diabetes-prone-nations/

Around 0.8m refugees in Pakistan under 18, says UNICEF

“Asian children will continue to confront internal displacement and its attendant dangers each year unless dramatic action is taken to curb climate change, improve urban planning and address disaster-risk reduction,” the report reads.  PHOTO: SHAHBAZ MALIK

One in six Asian migrants is a child, with Pakistan ranking among the top 10 countries hosting child refugees in Asia, according to a United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) report.

The report titled ‘Uprooted: The grooming crisis for refugee and migrant children’ revealed that Asia is home to two in five of the world’s child migrants, nine out of 10 refugees from Asia find refuge within Asia. Pakistan is closely followed by Afghanistan, Turkey, Myanmar, India, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh.

More than 19 million people have been internally displaced by conflict in Asia. A total of 1.5 million were displaced in Pakistan as of last year. There were close to 300, 000 refugees originating from Pakistan in 2015. Children accounted for 58 per cent of all Pakistani-origin refugees, the highest proportion in the region.

“Many of the youngest refugees have known only conflict and deprivation in their short lives,” states Unicef executive director Anthony Lake in the report. “If we fail to provide them – and all child refugees and migrants – with opportunities for education and a more normal childhood, how will they be able to contribute positively to their societies? What price will we collectively pay for that failure?”

But if young refugees are accepted and protected today, if they have a chance to learn and grow, and to develop their potential, they can be a source of stability and economic progress, he further states.

The largest number of child migrants live in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Among the top 10 countries hosting the largest number of international migrants under 18 years, Pakistan ranks fifth with around 0.8 million international migrants under the age of 18 years and some 1.6 million in total.

Conflicts in many Asian countries, high susceptibility to natural hazards and a large population all contribute to the huge toll of internal displacement within Asia.

Around 19.2 million people have been internally displaced by violence in Asia, a staggering 47 per cent of the global total for similar internal displacements.

Protracted conflicts and long-standing political crises are responsible for the situations faced by most of Asia’s refugees. Children make up 48 per cent of all refugees from Asia, including half of all Syrian and Afghan refugees. Children make up 58 per cent of all refuges from Pakistan, the highest proportion in the region.

Child labour

In addition to the many vulnerabilities faced by labour migrants, the age and inexperience of young labour migrants puts them at heightened risk of exploitation and many of the worst forms of child labour.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the recent national surveys from seven South Asian countries estimate that there are almost 17 million enaged in child labour and 42 million children out of school.

As child migrant labourers are severely disadvantaged by their status, they often end up in the informal sector or working as domestic servants, where it is particularly difficult to monitor and protect their well-being.

An ILO summary of evidence related to child labour makes it clear that working migrant children are the worst affected among these: “amongst child labourers, it is migrant children who receive less pay, work longer hours, attend school less frequently, and face higher death rates at work in comparison to local children.”

“Asian children will continue to confront internal displacement and its attendant dangers each year unless dramatic action is taken to curb climate change, improve urban planning and address disaster-risk reduction,” the report reads.

Ref: http://tribune.com.pk/story/1180323/homeless-abroad-around-0-8m-refugees-pakistan-18-says-unicef/

Gender Disparities In Pakistan: Unmasking The Democratic Delusion


Recognition of womens’ dignity, health, education, work, and political inclusion are some of the prerequisite actions for gender equality, however, despite of such acceptance, women either at work or domestic life face mental, physical and emotional harassment by working colleagues, life partners and blood relations. Even the worst is that all this shameful is conceived and dealt as normal routine of life a personal, family or tribal matter.

Tackling all these humiliations and out dated norms, being best fascinating part of democracy, gender equality not only ensures the survival & dignity of women, perhaps it also adheres all the women rights as human rights & towards the attainment of gender justice, nations of the world came up with the Elimination All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) & indeed, Pakistan is one of the signatory to ensure the gender justice across all the sections of society.
Unfortunately, contrary to this promised right of eliminating gender based discriminations; the recent report of World Economic Forum (WEF) on ‘Global Gender Gap 2016’ ranks Pakistan at 143 the ‘Second Worst’ country on gender inequality among the worlds’ 144 countries followed by Yemen. And the million dollar questions is, could this be justifiable with Pakistan’s narrative on the struggle of meeting Millennium Development Goals 2030?

Tracing out the headways of men and women equality, the report has focused on the areas of educational advancement, health and survival, economic opportunities as well as political empowerment, and since its first report on ‘Global Gender Gap – 2006’ of the WEF, compared to other South Asian Countries, Pakistan was ranked on 112, and since then it constantly declined year by year from 135th in 2013, 141st in 2014 and 143rd in 2015.

The major contribution in gender equality gap is deeply rooted in patriarchal values, with the connotations of family, tribal, feudal as well as the religious fundamentalist support. Even though during our routine life – merely on outdated conventional & faith based justifications girls education is still supposed as defame & most of us have been very reluctant to talk about women rights/ emancipation & we deliberately turned blind eye over the menace of gender based imparities and this has distorted the fabric of family canvas of Pakistani society.

And what else the disgrace would be in a state or country where so called Jirgas decide the fate of innocent (minor) girls given as – a fine called wani (forced to marriage in rival family) against the decision of any clash between two families, clans or tribes. Dealing with such menaces, despite of women protection laws, either national or international, government institutions seems to be helpless and dysfunctional before feudal control, patriarchal mindset, tribal customs & religious extremists.

As policy making institutions are driven by feudal lords who control the authorities, their sustainability is also linked with tribal, religious and patriarchal systems. Thriving on the struggle of womens’ emancipation, the fight of some women human rights activists accompanied with lawyers and few politicians had made some daunting change; perhaps it needs wider societal recognition.

There is no doubt that the WEF report on Pakistans’ state of gender imparities has also unmasked the countries’ democratic delusion towards the protection of human rights as well as gender development rhetoric, and the issues must be addressed with effective enforcement of laws by government machinery with active support and collaboration of civil society, academia, media and human rights defenders.

Ref: https://www.countercurrents.org/2016/11/06/gender-disparities-in-pakistan-unmasking-the-democratic-delusion/

Irshad Soomro is a Pakistani Human Rights activist. Email: irshadsoomro97@yahoo.com

50% children out of schools

50% children out of schools: minister

KARACHI: Sindh Minister for Social Welfare Shamim Mumtaz said on Monday that half of children population was out of schools in Pakistan, adding that society would be sensitised on child issues so as to ensure protection of child rights enshrined in UN charter.

The minister said that on the occasion of Universal Children Day falling on November 20, here at her office. Social Welfare Secretary Dr Shireen Mustafa, Social Welfare Deputy Director Muhammad Raheem Lakho, Child Welfare Deputy Director Fozia Masoom and others attended the meeting.

Shamim said children are our future and called upon civil society and parents in particular to play their role in protecting children rights and imparting best possible education and training to children to enable them to face the challenges of modern era.

She directed officers to make arrangements for celebrating child week from 14th November in connection with Universal Children Day falling on November 20th adding that seminars, walks, workshops, sports and speech competition should be organised to create awareness on child protection issues at district level throughout province.

In this regard, she said that banners, pamphlets, posters and awareness campaign on print and electronic media should also be initiated. She also directed to select a wall in each district of the province, and children should be asked to pen UN Child protection articles on it.

When Being Counted Can Lead to Being Protected.


hijraON THE

EVENING of May 22, Alesha, a 23-year-old transgender woman and human rights activist in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, received a phone call from some transgender friends. A local gang was demanding money and threatening them with violence if they didn’t pay — so Alesha rushed to the scene to help.

The confrontation turned violent, and the gang shot her six times at close range and left her for dead. The friends rushed Alesha to a hospital — but it was no refuge. For six hours, doctors debated — even jeering at Alesha’s friends as she lay bleeding — whether to put her in the male or female ward. Activists protested vehemently, even getting provincial politicians to stop by, but the wait was too long and Alesha died.

Alesha was a member of TransAction Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a nascent network of transgender and intersex women who have in recent years begun more vocal advocacy for their basic rights and safety. Their community has organized around the abject violence they face at the hands of local gangs, silence from the authorities responsible for protecting them, and indifference or incompetence from doctors meant to save their lives.

In addition to reactive campaigns to highlight the brutality the community faces almost daily, TransAction Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is on a mission of a different — though not unrelated — type: to be counted. The group has filed a petition at the Peshawar High Court seeking to postpone Pakistan’s federal census, originally due to begin in March but already delayed as a result of alleged political meddling over voting districts, until a promised third-gender column is added to the form. Echoing third-gender recognition campaigns from across the region, the activists are emphasizing a connection between the brutality of their daily lives and the lack of recognition from their government.

The group uses terms such as khawaja siras, hijra, intersex, and transgender for their identities — a mix of bodily and self-expression factors that do not confirm to typical notions of “male” and “female.” (There is considerable popular confusion over the terms. For example, in June, a group of Muslim clerics issued a decree that was widely reported to be a blessing for transgender women to marry; however, activists discovered, it was a rather narrow statement about intersex people under Islamic law.)

In South Asia, identity categories such as hijra — for people assigned male at birth who develop a feminine gender identity — have long been recognized culturally, if not legally. In recent years, activists have pursued the formal recognition of a third gender. Hijras’ traditional status, which included bestowing blessings at weddings, had provided some protection and a veneer of respect. However, rather than being viewed as equal to others before the law, they were regarded as exotic and marginal — an existence dictated by boundaries and limitations, not rights.

Pakistani law includes provisions to protect the rights of transgender people due to a 2011 Supreme Court judgment. In that decision, similar to those from other courts in South Asia, Pakistan’s Supreme Court called on all provincial governments to recognize the rights of transgender people. The judgment specifically called on the police to improve their response to cases involving transgender people, and on other officials to ensure the rights to basic education and employment. Some local governments have carried out parts of the court order, including by creating employment programs — for example, as tax collectors in Karachi.

Development experts,  international agencies, and governments are increasingly regarding the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in population data sets as not only necessary and desirable, but also feasible. Data-informed decisions, after all, require including the population in question in the information-gathering phase. Or, as the United Nations Development Program put it: “When people are counted, no one is left behind.”

In 2011 Nepal included a third-gender category on its national census, and in 2011 India did as well. The first time around, such data gathering exercises are not necessarily accurate or robust; implementation issues, including the personal bias of enumerators, may inhibit full inclusion. However, the political victory of such inclusive measures should not be overlooked. For a population so deeply marginalized, inclusion on a national census can have immense symbolic value as well.

Pakistan is overdue for a national census — its last one was in 1998. Security concerns and alleged voting district manipulation lie behind repeated delays. Early this year, referencing the 2012 Supreme Court judgment, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics indicated it had adjusted both the paper form and the computer software for the census to include a third-gender column. Within weeks, however, activists found that the final versions of the census forms, for reasons unknown, included only male and female options. In September, TransAction Khyber Pakhtunkhwa asked the Peshawar court to suspend the census until it included the third category — a move the provincial court can consider and even refer to a higher court.

The inclusion of a third gender on the census will not solve the crisis of violence and marginalization Pakistani transgender and intersex people are facing. Outright violence, employment discrimination, and abusive policeresponses will not be brought to an end by census forms. It is a crucial step, nonetheless, for those who wish to be recognized as something other than male or female. Progress on this front would be an important gesture from the government that it takes their plight seriously.

In the meantime, the brutality shows no sign of letting up, and the bigotry of some caregivers shows no sign of eroding.

On August 9, in Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a transgender woman named Sumbal was shot three times in the abdomen by unidentified assailants who were attempting to abduct and rape her. She was turned away at the district hospital; the staff said they only have two wards — male and female. The police only consented to register the case when faced with protests by activists. Sumbal survived the attack because she got medical care.

A gesture from the central government that Pakistanis can be counted as male, female, or a third gender would send a message that everyone counts equally — and that authorities from police to physicians should do their part to uphold basic security and dignity for all.

Ref: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/when-being-counted-can-lead-to-being-protected-pakistans-transgender-and-intersex-activists/

When Being Counted Can Lead to Being Protected: Pakistan’s Transgender and Intersex Activists-By Kyle Knight