Wow, this is an interesting development:
Late on Wednesday, the Supreme Court in Pakistan ordered that the government officially recognize a separate gender for Pakistan’s hijra community, which includes transgendered people, transvestites, and eunuchs. The court told the federal government to begin allowing people to identify as hijras when registering for a national identity card.
Such cards are necessary for everything from voting to more informal situations; patrons must present the card at cybercafes before surfing the Internet, for example. Not having an identity card, or having one with incorrect information, leaves a person vulnerable and easily excluded from society.
In addition to the order for government recognition, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry also issued a warning that the hijras’ rights of inheritance, which are often informally ignored, would be enforced, and that police harassment would not be permitted, a sign, perhaps, of rulings to come.
The article also points out that India has recently made similar provisions.
It’s unclear whether this is a giant leap forward for the recognition of Pakistanis who don’t fit neatly into the binary gender construct, especially since, as Charli Carpenter points out, women still face such institutional discrimation in Pakistan. My instinct is that it’s a definite step, since in so many societies (including, ahem, American society), transgender people still have to fight tooth and nail to be recognized as a legitimate minority worthy of protection.
Of course, the situation can be turned around and viewed quite differently. Ever reliable for spot-on snark, curv3ball at The Poor Man Institute assesses the situation as such: “Pakistan has suffered a costly setback in the My-Taliban-Is-More-Retrograde-Than-Your-Taliban Olympics.”