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Pakistan: Fatwa Allows Transgender Marriage

Pakistan_transgender_fatwa

Dawn.com, a large Pakistani newspaper has reported on a fatwa passed by a clerical body in the country that supports transgender marriage.

LAHORE: At least 50 clerics affiliated with a little known Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat have issued a fatwa (religious decree) that marriage with a transgender person is lawful.

The fatwa, released on Sunday, said a transgender person having “visible signs of being a male” may marry a woman or a transgender with “visible signs of being a female” and vice versa.

But, the fatwa added, a transgender person carrying “visible signs of both genders” may not marry anyone.

It declared that robbing transgender people of their share in inheritance was unlawful and that parents who deprive their transgender sons/daughters of inheritance were “inviting the wrath of God”.

The clerics called upon the government to take action against such parents.

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  • AJ

    Some of the people loosely referred to as transgendered in Pakisan are what the western society calls drag queens. These are men that wear female clothing and makeup and perform in weddings and stuff.

  • (((Reynardine)))

    Drink something that increases brain function.

  • (((Reynardine)))

    Female hormones don’t have any intersexing effects on women. Do you have a reading comprehension problem?..

  • (((Reynardine)))

    I suggest you use some semblance of respect.

  • (((Reynardine)))

    They don’t have any intersexing effect on the women who take them, but they are frequently not broken down during sewage treatment and the excreted hormones get into watercourses, with the same result as vinyl effluvia. Of course, no woman who has reason to think she *may* be pregnant should resume the Pill until she is sure she isn’t.

    Heating sewage to boiling would destroy both the hormone and most pathogens, even though the bare thought is revolting.

  • Jekyll

    Yeah birth control pills don’t help either.

  • (((Reynardine)))

    A surprising number of things can go haywire during fetal development, not all of them obvious at first glance. I suspect rather more of them have done so since we have spilled so many chemicals from manufacture of vinyl-based compounds into aquafers. There are watercourses where you can’t find functioning male fish, while the sperm count of even a healthy thirty-year-old man is half what his grandfather’s was in 1956. Then there are the growth hormones, steroids, and antibiotics pumped into our meat animals, dairy cattle, and laying hens. Under the circumstances, the wonder isn’t that some people have failed to be “normal”, but that we don’t have more who aren’t. The population problem may correct itself rather suddenly… but meanwhile, it is unjust to poison people in utero and then condemn them for the effects of the poison.

  • (((Reynardine)))

    Once upon a time, a great natural disaster caused thousands of people to perish at once. At the Pearly Gates, they were not prepared for this; the bottleneck caused by slow processing caused the souls standing in line to grumble. Periodically, an angelic candy-butcher came by to offer cupcakes (angel food cake, of course) and coffee, though at least the souls no longer required Portolets. But they became more and more impatient, all the same. And then, as this angelic candy-butcher was once more consoling them, a majestic figure in surgical greens stormed to the head of the line and went right in.

    “Wait,” the souls cried out, “how come he gets to jump the line?”

    “Very sad,” the candy butcher said. “That’s God. He has delusions of grandeur. He thinks he’s a doctor.”

    Now, there is no blasphemous intent behind this fable, but only a cautionary one: even God isn’t a doctor.

  • Mehdi

    Third Sex Lahore By Nimra Khan

    Sex and violence go hand in hand for Nazuk. ‘Is there any other way to have intercourse?’, she questions, punctuating with a deep, manly laughter as her Adam’s apple bobs up and down, almost as if enjoying the flummery of the question. ‘I think by beating me up, men feel they are in turn atoning for the sins they are committing. It’s like inflicted retribution.’ Her name Nazuk, which means delicate, stands in grand contradiction to her broad, burly frame. Tall at six feet, accentuated by strong shoulders, Nazuk is physically anything but delicate; almost like a big oak tree emulating a dandelion. Behind layers of a chalky mixture of water and white powder caked on her face, Nazuk has strong, defiant features adorned by a hooked nose and deep-seteyes. Her thin lips have been painted a bright pink, with a darker lip liner extended beyond them to appear fuller. She wears a tight-fitted shalwar kameez,with breasts made of foam as she coyly confides in me and prompts me to verify with the jab of my finger on her foamy bosom. Her hair, long and braided, is flung to the side and she has a habit of playing with her mane instinctively before answering a question, almost as if providing her with the strength to delve into her painful past. She tries to
    appear unaffected as we continue with our talk, but her sporadically glistening eyes give away her inner turmoil. ‘My family didn’t disown me. In fact, it was I who disowned them,’ she states with proud defiance. ‘Them not accepting me for who I was, was tantamount to them rejecting God as it was He who willed me to be with this. We are born out of humans, why must we be treated as any less?’ Her growing aloofness with each question made her façade even more apparent. It
    revealed years of practised strength she had garnered from building a
    big wall around her – one brick at a time, one rejection at a time.

    Nazuk was indeed very nazuk, if not by her physical self but the frailty of her heart. ‘I was born after a long line of sisters, and my father could not have been more jubilant about the final arrival of a boy. I just wish someone had recorded his expression when he learnt that I was physically far away from being a normal one,’ she replies giddily. A dark expression overtakes the smile on her face as she adds, ‘He was never a real man himself. Having a functional penis does not make you a man. He wasn’t even human.’

    Nazuk belongs to the historic city of Lahore, the second largest in Pakistan and the capital of its bustling province, Punjab. Once known as the ‘Paris of the East’, Lahore is steeped in rich culture and traditions while also maintaining the relative height of liberalism in the country, when compared to the smaller cities and villages. Acting as the cultural heart of the country, Lahore hosts much of its arts,
    cuisine, music, cinema and intelligentsia. Despite the growing modernity of the city, many factions of the society continue to spiral downwards in their regressive path of intolerance. ‘I feel I was lucky to have been born in Lahore, rather than a city like Peshawar, because we live like princesses here compared to the harrowing stories of what happens there to people like us.’ By ‘us’, Nazuk is referring to the population of over a million and a half in the Third Sex community, also called khawaja siras and derogatorily, hijras, in the country. A significant number for a highly marginalised section of society, in which almost every member is either forsaken, abused or assaulted.

    The Third Sex community includes transgender, transsexuals, intersex and transvestites. The term transgender is used to describe people who do not agree with the gender they were assigned to by society, and may thus look, feel, act or think different from their ascribed sex. Transsexuals may change their sex through medication and/or surgery, but generally it is very expensive to do so and many live their lives feeling trapped inside their bodies. Intersex is a medical term for
    people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomies that do not seem to fit the conventional definitions of male and female. Whereas transvestites are those who are born to one sex but sometimes prefer to wear the clothes and act like the other sex, also popularly known as cross-dressers.

    It is indeed ironic that the plight of the Third Sex community is probably the worst in Peshawar, where no one bats an eyelid on affairs pertaining to homosexuality and sodomy, despite the fact they are openly condemned in conservative Islamic interpretation. But to be a khawaja sira is tantamount to being a pariah at best and a non-human duly deserving all forms of debasement at worst. Lahore has been in the front line of Pakistan’s cities that have worked diligently towards changing the
    societal perception of the community, along with providing them an iota of respect and normalcy to lead their beleaguered existence. A good example of the initiatives taken by the city is the Khawaja-Sira Rehabilitation Programme in Lahore, which started in 2010. It was initially meant to provide support to khawaja siras above the ageof fifty through monthly stipends, literacy, psychological treatment and free medical assistance. Due to the programme’s success and growing support, it now also helps the younger community by encouraging dialogue and providing skills and opportunities, paving their way towards a dignified future.

    Khawaja siras have a special place in the South Asian version of Islam. People believe that God gave them two genders, so they must be His special, chosen ones. Historically speaking, khawaja siras were highly respected and trusted as caretakers and guardians of royal harems, masters of art and culture, and at times the king’s advisors as well. In the Mughal era, they were very influential and worked at high positions, garnering substantial wealth and treated as distinguished
    servants to the royal families of the emperors throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to historians they were given this position due to their lack of proclivity of making advances on the queens and princesses, and were thus trusted. They were organised in a hierarchy, with a senior or chief khawaja sira directing the community. During the nineteenth century, the British outlawed sodomy and cross-dressing, and brought with them a wave of conservatism that still shudders the foundation of the society today. They were discriminated against under the Criminal Tribals Act in 1871, which lumped the khawaja sira community with ‘habitually criminal’ groups like thugs. The community was deliberately marginalised and reduced to legal non-existence after 250 years of reverence and prestige. After colonialism, they were continued to be treated like
    outlaws and animals, which over time slowly embedded itself in the fabric of the Indian subcontinent even when it was torn in half. Pakistan may have gained independence in 1947, but colonialism and its stigma never ended.

    Nowadays, the community lives on the margins of society, making their livelihood on the behest of those who shun them and still use them as entertainers, beggars and sex workers. Despite mostly being cast out by their very own family members, they still yearn for a semblance of a family life and thus have formed very close-knit communities with gurus (experienced elders in their community) and chelas (disciples). Ironically enough, by forging the same sorts of familial connections that they left behind, khawaja siras create a social order that mimics the very society from which many of them fled but can at least survive in with acceptance and love instead of disgust and disdain.

    ‘Here everyone has some sort of a family tie,’ says Salma. I find her humble house by making my way through the crowded, narrow streets of a dilapidated part of Lahore where open drains and human waste line the streets. Her front door is neck-laced with different wires hanging from the second storey above and she greets me with a wary smile infused with the aromatic smell of masalas wafting out from behind her. Dexterously slicing up green chillies with a sharp knife held between her long fingers and even longer nails, ‘we have mothers, aunts, uncles
    and even daughters’, she says, pointing the knife to a girl sitting in the corner of the room smoking an opium laced cigarette. Throwing the green chillies in a pan of oil and stirring somewhat shyly, the multitude of colourful bangles on her arm jingle merrily as she adds, ‘Chutki even has a father,’ referring to her proclaimed daughter. Seeing the confusion on my face, ‘Not her biological one! That good for
    nothing bastard tried to sell her for a few measly drugs after having beaten her till her nose had no bones and her teeth were all lying in her stomach.’ Chutki continues smoking. ‘You forgot the part where he tried to play the role of my pimp as well,’ she adds expressionlessly to the biographic account being given of her life. ‘No, Chutki’s father now is a good man. He gets us medicines and takes care of us. He might be married to someone else, but he loves me,’ says Salma with a proud smile. Not wanting to talk much about her prior life, she states it is
    more or less the same for everyone in her community; their similar histories unite them together in a bond that is unspoken yet deeply understood. ‘Most of us will probably have the same story of losing our virginity, as it’s mostly at the hand of some relative or family friend who comes to know about our condition or is smart enough to notice something is amiss. Could be an uncle or a cousin, or maybe even a couple of them at the same time. And if you’re beautiful, then you are
    pretty much doomed. Once we get used to this abuse and blackmailing, then we’re forced to work as sex slaves and then ultimately rejected by the same society who comes and uses us for their needs. Think about it, the only reason why we even have jobs as dancers or sex workers, is because there is and always will be a need for it in society. People will always come to us no matter how much they spit in our face the next morning.’ She stops for a moment to laugh throwing her head back, ‘Ejaculate at night, spit in the morning!’

    Continued discrimination and repulsion for the khawaja sira community has sucked them in a quagmire of destitution and other chronic social evils. It is not that discrimination against them is structural in Pakistan; rather it is largely rooted in how they are perceived as members of Pakistani society. In general, they are widely ridiculed and grossly mocked at even if they try to make efforts towards
    a decent living for themselves. ‘If the society started accepting us and allowing us the same working privileges as a normal human being, we could surely help the economy and fight the tribulations of poverty that cripples us as a society and nation,’ adds Salma, shrugging her shoulders at the preposterousness of the situation, along with its simple and easy solution.

    In most parts of Lahore, decked with relentless traffic and roadsides advertisements, you can find many khawaja siras cat-walking at traffic signals, adding colour to the already vibrant city with their dramatic make up and flamboyant attire. They go from car to car begging for money sometimes through flirtation and sometimes through promises of the inundation of blessings through their prayers. Some donors even end up giving money to save themselves from the superstitious wrath of the community, as many believe that God pays
    attention to their curses. Which, in itself is quite a paradox. Many Pakistani also believe that they cannot be classified as Muslims and thus must be ostracised.

    The position of the Third Sex in Islam is somewhat ambiguous. Although the Qur’an does not make direct references to the Third Sex, there are some verses that may be portrayed as such. Take, for example, 24:31, which speaks of some men who are ‘without the defining skills of males’. This is possibly a reference to men with female gender identity, therefore acknowledging their existence in the society. Or consider, 42: 49-50: ‘To Allah belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth. Allah creates what He wills. He prepares for whom He wills females, and prepares for whom He wills males. Or Allah marries together the males and the females, and makes those whom He wills to be ineffectual. Indeed, Allah is the Knowing, the Powerful’. This verse has been interpreted by many in relation to bearing an offspring, but some scholars believe the term ‘ineffectual’ refers to people with a transgender identity. It has also been suggested that the verse
    describes diversity in sexual orientation and gender, ‘which Allah, the All-Knowing and All-Powerful, creates as Allah wishes’; the ‘females’ and ‘males’ for ‘whom He wills’ being counterparts or objects of desire,and ‘whom(ever)’ being male or female. Commentaries on 13:3, which refers to ‘every kind of fruit being made in pairs’, also acknowledge that there is a third sex in plants, which can by analogy take us to the conclusion that there may also be a third sex, a unisex, in animals and humans.

    While the intricacies of Qur’anic interpretation may escape khawaja siras, they do tend to observe the basic rituals of Islam. Most are keen to perform the hajj; and Ramadan is observed with great fanfare. Salma recounts a story one Ramadan from six years ago. ‘It was chaand raat (the night when the new moon is sighted to mark the end of the fasting month) in Lahore, and after having spent a month of dutiful fasting, we were all very excited to partake in the upcoming festivities,’ she says. ‘I had decided long ago I was going to wear a magenta sari, embellished with sequenced work. I even knew how I was going to make my hair and make up, and had planned to especially splurge and go to the beauty parlour for that.’ Little did Salma know at that point that she would be half bald before the sun rose the next day. She went out with her friends to shop for bangles and have mehndi applied on her hands, where they came across a group of rowdy men marking an end to their holy abstinence by dousing in cheap, local alcohol. ‘In hindsight, it would have been better to stick to the two paths we are instructed to employ when dealing with these type of men – either ignore or just plain surrender,’ continues Salma. ‘But I think the excitement of the night got to my head and I haughtily told one of the men his mother was waiting at home with her legs spread for him. And that was it. Somehow when it comes to their own mothers or daughters, these men go into a
    frenzy of respect and protection, no matter how much they manhandle someone else’s daughter or mother.’

    The men beat, kicked and slapped Salma and her friends around till the police intervened. They were taken to the police station instead of the hospital, even though they were battered and bleeding, while the men were left scot-free. ‘But the night had just started for us,’ Salma proceeded with a deep, melancholic sigh. ‘At the station we were all stripped, not just of our clothes but also of our tattered pride for the amusement of the police. With our cheeks red from slaps and aching
    bones from the incessant punching and kicking, we were made to dance as tears trickled down most of our faces. Those who expressed no grief were hurled more abuse. It was obvious our misery and harassment was their joy, and boy did they languish in it.’ After physically abusing them, they cut off everyone’s hair as a sign of degradation and finally let them go. The next day, none of the khawaja siras in her neighbourhood and close communities celebrated Eid. They have a code: if
    even one of them was not happy, no one was to celebrate. After that incident, the only happiness they could remember on Eid was the howling laughter and dastardly mirth the policemen had so enjoyed.

    The khawaja sira community has suffered this kind of brutish and degrading behaviour for decades. The Pakistani society has low tolerance and acceptance of anything that contradicts rigid belief systems, be they based on societal norms, cultural traditions, moral traits or religious teachings. When it comes to sexuality, the matter turns even graver. In Muslim societies pillared on a patriarchal structure, where gender discrimination runs asunder, the khawaja sira have little or no place in the social make up of society. They have survived without any form of identity or the most basic human rights. However, their plight received special attention in 2009, after a harrowing incident in Taxila, near Islamabad, where local police
    reportedly attacked and raped a group of transgender wedding dancers. Muhammad Aslam Khai, an attorney specialising in Islamic law, filed a private case in the Pakistan Supreme Court. Khai’s persistence and diligence finally gave khawaja siras official recognition and stature as third gender under the Pakistan Constitution. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, now hailed as a hero of the Third Sex minority, took the revolution forward and the Supreme Court, for the first time in the history of the country, granted the
    community their own gender category under Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). As a result, khawaja siras can now have male transgender, female transgender or intersex written on their national identification cards. This catapulted a series of successful rulings in favour of the khawaja sira community by the Supreme Court. These included the formation of various judicial, law making and enforcing committees on a provincial and national level that
    work towards safeguarding the newly acquired rights of the third gender community. They now enjoy many of the rights of other citizens in Pakistan, including inheritance and employment rights. The police, who have been notoriously involved in the maltreatment of khawaja siras, have been especially warned to cease all forms of harassment under threat of serious prosecution.

    The Supreme Court went further. It recommended that qualified khawaja siras now be given 2 per cent of the jobs in all sectors. According to the ruling, a Third Sex applicant with a tenth grade education is now deemed to have the same qualifications for government work as another citizen with a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, in 2010, khawaja siras were also appointed as tax collectors. Using their special skills of persuasion, it has been reported, they have successfully collected hefty amounts of unpaid dues. Thus, the past few years have seen much official progress for the rights of the Third Sex, and what is more notable is the fact
    that they have been galvanised in a retrogressive and conservative country like Pakistan. But, will the change in law usher in change in society’s perception of the khawaja sira community?

    Has the new legislation changed lives in the community, I ask Khushbu. She lets out a big snort from her powdered nose and guffaws at the apparent asininity of my question. ‘You really think all these measures have currently helped us in any way possible or will in the near future?’ Her belly laugh encourages laughter from her group of friends who have also joined our conversation, as they all live in a
    tiny, shabby house in a squalid neighbourhood of Lahore. Despite all the efforts and headway that has been made thus far, the actual assimilation of Third Sex empowerment has been lost in the murky waters of bureaucratic lassitude, institutional failures and indifference on the government’s part. ‘The government can’t even provide basic necessities to entities they regard as individuals here, you think they would care for non-entities like us? We’re not people to them. We’re not
    even human. So while the common man has no electricity, gas and water, you think us lesser beings are going to fare any better?’ says Khushbu with visible insouciance.

    Since the Supreme Court ruling on identity cards, less than ten per cent of the khawaja siras have been able to obtain them stating their preferred gender
    designation. Most are still listed as male because they failed to submit the necessary documents such as birth certificates. ‘Since we are worse than maggots in the eyes of others, our families have also had no qualms disposing us off like plagued vermin, you think we can go back and obtain our birth or school certificates?’ Khushbu questions the idiocy of the situation. Some Muslim khawaja siras chose against getting their gender changed, as by doing so, they would be
    forbidden from performing pilgrimage, as Saudi Arabia does not recognize the Third Sex. The two percent quota allocation of jobs has only seen one province out of the four employing khawaja siras. The right to vote emboldened five members of the community to run for political office during the 2013 general election, but all failed to obtain a seat. The real impediment is the internal perception of bureaucrats and law enforcers. New laws and regulations are not easy to come about as it is, but what is harder is changing a mindset that is so deeply brainwashed with years of bigotry and rigid intransigence. The new laws may take a while to have actual impact, but at least the ball is now rolling instead of being kicked around.

    ‘We came into this world with a thumka (a dance step), and we are going to thumka
    our way to the grave!’ retorts Soniya, one of Khushbu’s housemates, shimmying her hips and thrusting them to one side repeatedly to visually express her point further – which meant they will die doing what they do now and live the same quality of life. ‘We have all long ago ceded to the plight of our fate’, Khushbu explains. And then as an after thought adds, ‘plight is the wrong word. Yes, we are cursed both literally and metaphorically, but we have gotten so accustomed to that part of our lives – which is a major chunk – that we had not only hardened ourselves to the bitter truth by internalising it, but our strength lies in managing to find happiness in the deepest abyss of our misery as well.’

    Khushbu and her friends are all dancers; although that is not enough to sustain their livelihood. So they resort to more dire measures as well. ‘When we’re dancing in a room full of sweaty, horny men whose sexual desires are heightened by the thought of indulging in lewd perversions with “people like us”, I close my eyes and imagine I’m on a stage in a land of the goras (Europe) where my rhythm mesmerises the audience and my beauty intoxicates them senseless,’ Khushbu finishes with a dramatic flip of her hair and turns to look at my reaction with a
    smile. Soon the seriousness clouding her eyes takes away from the gaiety of it all as she continues her next thought. ‘The brain is a very powerful organ,’ she continues with her eyes narrowed. ‘Once you learn to control it, you’ll be surprised at how much you can really deceive it as well. Yes, I know; control and deception don’t usually work for the same favour, but this world is a farce and deception your opium,’ explains Khushbu. ‘They all cease to exist. Their smell. Their laughter.
    Their brashness. And even though I am actually imprisoned in a derelict cage with my wings clipped off, I am still soaring inside. Even if just for a few moments, and that’s one thing no one can take away from me irrespective of all the physical abuse and emotional trauma, of all the undue rejection and unconditional hatred.’ A heavy silence fills the room, only to be broken by one of her comrades. ‘Yeah, you soar till you get a rod plunged so far up your backside that it comes out of your mouth and smacks you back into reality!’

    They all laugh. An orchestra of deep, effeminate, throaty and high-pitched laughter. The symphony sounded genuine, and completely free of shackles.

  • 1DrM

    Worthless fatwa from a worthless group of publicity seeking clowns

  • (((Reynardine)))

    I daresay if someone has physically changed sex (or become a definite sex), this would be correct.

    A former fiance of mine (who had thereafter married and divorced) introduced me to a lady he was dating. Later, he asked me what I thought of her. I told him I thought she was a very nice lady, but that she hadn’t always been one, though she was doubtless a very nice gentleman. He asked her, and found this was so; he had not noticed anything different about her, and he was not a dumb man. As my mother was a portrait artist who kept anatomical atlases about, I had spotted the lack of rotation in the humeri and of convergence in the femurs. That, + big hands and feet…

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