Protecting trans children – 17 Dec 2022

The court has constituted a special committee to determine SOPs for the transgender child protection unit

While hearing a set of petitions challenging the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, the Federal Sharia Court (FSC) has directed the Human Rights Ministry to constitute a child protection unit to ensure the provision of due rights for transgender children. Despite much criticism by religious groups regarding the transgender bill, it is reassuring that the Islamic court has let sanity prevail and recognised that not only that transgender children require specialised attention and care but also that this responsibility must be carried out by the state. The court has also constituted a special committee to determine SOPs for the transgender child protection unit.

One does not need to delve deep into Islamic teaching and split hair to realise that children, despite their gender, have dignity and rights – the FSC must be commended on reaffirming this openly. Ideally, the special unit must be assigned two specific tasks: i) to create awareness among families to not discard transgender children, and ii) to create safety and protection mechanisms for those that are vulnerable. The former deals with trying to address and overcome societal taboos and stereotypes through awareness campaigns and community engagement. The latter, however, is a bit more complex. In order to protect transgender children that have been disregarded by family and society, the state must either establish care homes or engage the wider transgender community for child placement.

It would also be helpful to first hold consultation sessions with experts and stakeholders to retrieve important information before moving forward, so that gaps can be addressed accordingly beforehand. If successful, the decision by the FSC will go a long way in empowering the transgender community and creating a more tolerant and inclusive Pakistani society.

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