Friday, July 17, 2009

Right to equality

Dawn Editorial

Thursday, 16 Jul, 2009

IN a country where the rights of citizens are abused routinely, the importance of the recent Supreme Court decree that the federal and provincial governments take steps to protect the rights of transvestites is welcome. Discriminated against by virtually every section of society, this group of people is separated from the mainstream because of a backward societal mindset and lack of awareness about physical and emotional gender-related conditions — it must be remembered that the term ‘transvestite’ is used generally in Pakistan to describe hermaphrodites, eunuchs, cross-dressers etc. These people are often forced into the lowest strata of society, subjected to mental and sexual abuse and denied their right to education and employment. Indeed, it is not unknown for families to wash their hands of the responsibility of raising children with gender-related physical abnormalities by handing them over to ‘gurus’, or leaders of ‘transvestite’ gangs, to be raised as prostitutes, beggars or dancers. In the absence of a law or a sizeable forum actively reiterating their rights, these people have been routinely harassed by many, even the police if approached for help.

After hearing the petitioner argue that as a welfare state, it was the government’s responsibility to look after this community, the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday that as equal citizens of Pakistan, ‘transvestites’ should benefit from the federal and provincial governments’ income support schemes such as the Benazir Income Support Programme and that they were entitled to funds from the Baitul Maal. These are encouraging developments and it is hoped that they will lead to an improvement in the financial and societal status of ‘transvestites’. However, there is also a need to address the educational and vocational training requirements of this section of the citizenry. An awareness campaign is just as crucial if societal attitudes are to be changed.

Source: Click here

This is a service of the Organisation Intersex International

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