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Associated Press report includes misleading info on Pakistan trans rights act

AP wrongly claims the Pakistani govt has introduced a draft bill on trans rights

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Claim: A report by The Associated Press claims an amendment to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, proposed by the Government of Pakistan, will allow transgender individuals to choose their gender identity on previously-issued official documents and that hardline clerics are opposing the suggested changes.

Fact: Five different amendments were put forward by senators from Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JIP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), not the Government of Pakistan. These bills do not propose the changes that AP reported; the existing Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, already grants trans people the right to choose their gender identity for official documents.

On 30 September 2022, The Associated Press (AP) published a report titled, “Pakistan launches anti-harassment hotline for trans people,” which includes the following text:

The hotline comes as the government tries to pass an amendment in its transgender rights bill, which will let trans people choose their gender identity for previously issued government documents, educational certificates and national identity cards. But the proposed amendments have caused controversy, with hardline clerics opposing them.

The report was shared on the AP’s Facebook page, as well as other social media platforms. It has been published on several other websites because the AP also offers wire services.

In 2018, Pakistan passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.

Fact or Fiction?

There are five bills seeking to amend the 2018 law on trans rights on the Senate’s website. These drafts were submitted by:

JIP Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan has also introduced a completely new bill, titled “Khunsa Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2022,” which effectively repeals the entire Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.

The lawmakers stressed “the need to align the 2018 Act with Islamic injunctions” — Quran and Sunnah — with the final outcome of the proposed amendments to be sent to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

JIP Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan’s amendment bill claims the 2018 Act is “repugnant to the injunctions of Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan”. His new bill — the Khunsa Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2022 — also claims that the 2018 Act contradicts “the real picture of Khunsa Persons” and “has the following effects:

  • Legalisation of homosexual marriages
  • Repugnancy to law of inheritance in Quran
  • Violation of dignity/modesty of Muslim women
  • Making the recognition of gender a subjective matter”

PTI Senator Fawzia Arshad alleges the 2018 Act “does not conform to the principles and rules developed under Sharia for dealing with the issues related to transgender persons in a Muslim society”.

PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz claims the 2018 Act “grossly intruded on the rights of women”, opens “a way to homosexuality and many other moral, social, pyschological problems”, results in the “legalization of homosexual marriages”, and is “not only against the social and cultural norms of our society but also the basic teachings of Islam”.

PML-N Senator Mohammad Sabir Shah believes the 2018 Act “has a chance of weakness or misuse” due to complaints over Sections 3 and 4.

JUI-F Senators Molana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Attaur Rehman, Molvi Faiz Mohammad, and Kamran Murtaza assert the 2018 Act “failed to achieve” its purposes, opens the door for “conflicts and contradictions among various school of thoughts of Islam”, and is “against the spirit of Islam, as the same does not allow any person to adopt an identity on the basis of his or her own choice”.

Summaries of the proposed bills on trans rights

JIP Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan’s draft legislation proposes changing the definition of a “transgender person” retrogradely, mandates medical tests, removes the methodology to calculate the share of inheritance for transgender individuals, and does away with any possible gender affirmation surgery.

PTI Senator Fawzia Arshad’s bill revises the definition of a transgender person to focus only on biology and genitalia, removes the right of transgender people to change their name and gender on existing CNICs, and abolishes right to inheritance as per self-perceived gender identity by replacing it with an inheritance share based on said person’s genitalia.

PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz’s bill replaces the word “transgender” with “intersex” and removes all mentions of “gender expression”, as well as all definitions of a transgender person by limiting it to intersex. The bill proposes stripping transgender people of the right to register themselves as per their perceived gender and the right to change their name and gender on existing CNICs. 

PML-N Senator Mohammad Sabir Shah’s bill replaces the phrase “self-perceived gender identity” with the words “as determined by the Medical Certificate issued by the concerned Medical Board”. The bill also seeks to abolish the transgender community’s internal Guru system via “prohibition against adopting of transgender baby by Gurus”. It also prohibits “disowning of [a] transgender baby”.

The JUI-F senators’ bill replaces the word “transgender” with “intersex”, abolishes “gender expression”, and defines “intersex identity” as one that is based on “physical appearance, genital features or congenital ambiguities” or as determined by a medical board. It removes all other definitions of transgender persons, limits the right of transgender people to be recognised only based on their “physical appearance, genital features or congenital ambiguities or by a duly notified medical doctor”.

The bill further revokes all rights of self-identification, including on all official documents, and does away with Section 5 (Prohibition against Harassment), all references to “unfair treatment”, all obligations of the government, and the clause of “no discrimination” in inheritance rights. The said bill also limits all inheritance rights, entry to polling stations, and action against those using transgender persons for begging to the narrow definition of transgender as intersex and/or based on genitalia and organs or the decision by a medical board.

JIP Senator Mushtaq Ahmad’s new bill further proposes that gender should not be “different than the sex assigned to him or her at the time of birth or as per the advice of Medical Board”. The bill also seeks to remove the X-marker on CNICs so “khunsa” individuals can only be categorised as male or female. Moreover, it does not view psychological disorders or gender dysphoria as legitimate reasons for gender reassignment and states that the theory that gender is non-binary is “concocted”.

Virality

Soch Fact Check found the report shared on multiple other media outlets’ websites and social media pages. This is because the AP services include news wire, meaning that different organisations around the world have access to such stories and can share them on their websites with a byline given to the AP.

Some websites where the news appeared include The Washington Post, The Hill, Yahoo! News, ABC News, Audacy, WRAL News, Local 10 News, and Eyewitness News.

Verified Facebook pages — such as Louis Aguirre, Eyewitness News, UpNorthLive, KWTV – NEWS 9, KWKT FOX 44, and The Jamaica Observer — also shared the report.

Conclusion: The Government of Pakistan has not submitted any such draft legislation. Lawmakers from JIP, PTI, PML-N, and JUI-F have put forth five different amendments. These bills do not propose the changes that AP reported; the existing law passed in 2018 already grants trans people the right to choose their gender identity for official documents.

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