Road to inclusion

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In the intricate dance of election registration and exercising the right to vote, the transgender community finds itself both disadvantaged and disenfranchised. A glaring issue emerges as at least 95 individuals await registration with the Election Commission of Pakistan under their non-binary gender identity, grappling with hurdles in obtaining the crucial ‘X’ Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) necessary for voter registration.
A recent investigative story published on these pages sheds light on the challenges faced by these individuals, highlighting the fundamental flaw in a system that misidentifies them, ultimately jeopardizing their ability to participate fully in the upcoming general elections. The road to inclusion for the transgender community, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), is marred by discriminatory processes surrounding the issuance of the ‘X’ CNICs.
While efforts were initiated by the Provincial Election Commission of KP, in collaboration with the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and the provincial social welfare department, the process faced multiple suspensions, leaving the community in limbo about the developments. Despite being home to more than 57,000 transgender persons, KP has seen only a limited number issued CNICs with the ‘X’ symbol, hindering their participation in the electoral process.
A significant setback to the sustained struggled of the transgender community occurred with the Federal Shariat Court’s decision, declaring certain sections of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018 contradictory to Islamic injunctions and law. This ruling forced NADRA to withdraw a notification, halting the issuance of ‘X’ symbol identity cards forthwith. The subsequent striking down of the act in July 2023 further complicated matters, leading to the freezing of the voter list by the Election Commission of Pakistan, thus potentially depriving these individuals from exercising their right to vote.
The challenges faced by transgender individuals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa underscore the urgent need for streamlined processes that recognize and respect their gender identity. The impoverished state of transgender rights serves as an indictment of the state’s disinterest in preserving the basic rights of such vulnerable groups.
As the electoral process unfolds and shifts into higher gear, there is a crucial need to implement targeted awareness campaigns, address legal contradictions and expedite the issuance of with CNICs with ‘X’ symbol. These measures are essential to ensure the inclusion of transgender persons in the democratic fabric of the nation.
Without such initiatives, the risk of disenfranchisement looms large for a community striving for recognition and equal rights, signaling a dire need for societal change and political commitment to safeguard the principles of humanity and democracy.