Clerics In Pakistan Have Declared Transgender Marriages Legal Under Islam

'Feel Good Friday': The group of clerics in Pakistan have said that we need to accept the transgender people as "God's creation, too."

Cover image via dailyherald

In Pakistan, homosexuality is banned and homosexuals are not allowed to marry. And while there's a disapproval of LGBT lifestyle, yet the state there does not aggressively prosecute gays as a rule.

Trans Action, an advocacy group, say that there are at least 45,000 transgender people in the province and at least half-a-million nationwide.

In 2012, Pakistan's Supreme Court declared equal rights for transgender citizens, including the right to inherit property and assets. They were also given the right to vote the year before.

However, it has denied homosexual couples the permission to marry, with cases in the past of male homosexuals being charged under anti-sodomy laws.

Because of the discrimination the transgender people face in Pakistan, they struggle to find employment and survive by dancing at carnivals and weddings or work as prostitutes and beggars

A transgender Pakistani dancing at a party in Rawalpindi.

Image via indiatvnews

Pakistan also has a long South Asian tradition of accepting transsexuals and people of non-traditional genders as part of society. Some eunuchs and others have been viewed as having mystical powers.

However, they are marginalized from mainstream society, and many work as prostitutes, beggars and entertainers. Men dressed in female costumes and makeup are a familiar sight at public festivals and shrines.

However, amidst all this, a religious decree by a group of clerics declaring that transgender people have full marriage, inheritance and funeral rights under Islamic law is a sign of the progressiveness

50 Muslim clerics passed the decree, or fatwa, on Sunday, 26 June, stating that a female-born transgender having "visible signs of being a male" may marry a woman or a male-born transgender with "visible signs of being a female", and vice versa, reported Reuters

The decree, although not legally binding, also declared that any act intended to "humiliate, insult or tease" the transgender community was "haraam". It said parents who deprived their transgender sons or daughters of inheritances were "inviting the wrath of God".

Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat is not a political organisation, and its fatwas are not legally binding. But the group wields influence thanks to its tens of thousands of followers across Pakistan.

Its statement was celebrated as a rare moment of good news for Pakistan’s marginalised transgender people, at a time when the community is increasingly being targeted with physical attacks.

Activists welcomed the fatwa and called on Pakistans government to codify Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat's decree with binding legislation

"We are glad that somebody's talked about us too," transgender rights worker Almas Bobby told BBC Urdu. "By Sharia we already had the right [to marry], but unless measures are taken to remove the misconceptions about us in society, the condition of our community will not be changed."

Another social worker for gender issues told BBC Urdu that it was a "good step", but that issues would remain until transgender marriage was officially legitimised.

Qamar Nasim said that many police officers had charged people in transgender marriages because "due to a lack of knowledge... they consider it same-sex marriage".

"This practice can only be stopped when [the] government spread awareness about rights of a transgender person."
Image via BBC

Through 'Feel Good Friday', we at SAYS try to bring the most positive story of the week that we hope touches our readers' heart.

You can help us in our this weekly endeavour by suggesting us any positive, feel good story that you think deserves to be shared with the world.

Send your suggestions to [email protected] with 'Submission for Feel Good Friday' as the subject line. If we like what we see, we will get back to you!

Meanwhile, do check out our previous Feel Good Friday features:

You may be interested in: