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Federal Shariat Court Strikes Down Transgender Law, Citing Religious Incompatibility

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The Federal Shariat Court (FSC) has ruled that a law designed to protect the rights of transgender individuals is in violation of Islamic principles. The Acting Chief Justice of the FSC, Dr. Syed Muhammad Anwer, and Justice Khadim Hussain announced their reserved verdict on a series of petitions challenging the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018.

The FSC has deemed several provisions of the act, including the definition of “gender identity” (Section 2(f)), “transgender person” (Section 2(n)(iii)), recognition of a transgender person’s identity (Section 3), and the right to inherit (Section 7), as contradictory to the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

Critics of the law argue that it has the potential to legitimize gay and lesbian rights under the guise of transgender rights.

In its 108-page judgment, the court concluded that using the term “transgender” to refer to gender identity based on self-perception, rather than biological sex, goes against Islamic principles. The court arrived at this conclusion after hearing extensive arguments from the parties involved and reviewing research and materials presented by the petitioners.

According to the court, Islamic practices such as prayers, fasting, Haj, and the distribution of inheritance are tied to biological sex and not gender. The court stated that a person’s gender must align with their biological sex as per Islamic teachings.

The court also noted that the inclusion of five different terms, including “intersex,” “eunuch,” “transgender man,” “transgender woman,” and “khawajasira,” within the definition of a “transgender person” in Section 2(n) of the act led to confusion and misinterpretation. The judgment clarified that Islamic law recognizes the existence of intersex individuals and provides them with all the rights mentioned in the act. Similarly, it acknowledged the existence of eunuchs, or khawajasiras, and highlighted that the term was mistakenly placed in the wrong section.

While the court deemed Section 2(n)(ii) as not contradictory to Islamic teachings, it called for clarity on the matter, specifying that castration to become a eunuch is only allowed for medical reasons.

However, the court found Section 2(n)(iii) to be against Islam since many religious obligations are based on a person’s biological sex and cannot be determined solely by their self-perceived gender identity.

Regarding Section 3, which allows individuals to change their gender identity on official documents, such as identity cards and driving licenses, the court argued that such provisions could lead to religious, legal, and social problems. Allowing individuals to change their gender based on their inner feelings or self-perceived identity may result in unauthorized access to gender-specific spaces and gatherings, potentially creating societal issues.

Furthermore, the court contended that Section 7, which pertains to inheritance rights, is also inconsistent with Islamic principles as self-perceived gender identity should not determine one’s entitlement to inheritance.

The court emphasized that the state’s duty is to prevent societal evils, and as such, Section 3 of the act, which allows gender identity to be detached from biological sex, is against Islamic teachings.

The ruling has significant implications for transgender individuals in Pakistan, as their rights and recognition under the law have been challenged on religious grounds.

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