The transgender community in Pakistan just achieved a major “milestone” in the struggle for basic rights.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior issued the country’s first passport with the transgender designation, according to a recent post by Trans Action Pakistan. Instead of having “male” or “female” listed on their official documents, Pakistani transgender men and women can have a “X” under the sex category. This is a huge occurrence for a country that saw a surge of violence against transgender woman in 2016, according to Human Rights Watch.
“After a long struggle we are able to make another change,” Trans Action’s post said.
“Farzana [Riaz], president of the TransAction alliance has become the first transgender person in KP and Pakistan whose passport carries a transgender identity,” the post continued.
The “X” category is now common for national identification cards, but Farzana Riaz is reportedly the first to receive a passport recognizing her as a transgender woman since the Supreme Court of Pakistan granted the transgender designation five years ago.
“Earlier I had a passport which had described my gender as a male,” Farzana Riaz told the AFP. “But this time I told the authorities that I won’t accept my passport if it doesn’t identify me as a transgender.”
The country’s transgender community spent four years in a legal battle before the Supreme Court of Pakistan granted a third gender designation to transgender and intersex individuals in 2012. Transgender men and women are given national identity cards in order to vote, but not passports. And, as of this year, transgender individuals will be counted in the country’s 2017 census.
Gay and transgender individuals are often still ostracized in Pakistani society. Homophobia, according to the BBC, has a religious sanction in the country.
Other countries, such as Germany, Nepal and India, also have a third gender designation available on their passports and national identity cards. The United States doesn’t have a non-binary option for passports, but a citizen is allowed to alter their passport to change between male and female designations with “a signed, original statement from a licensed physician.” Oregon, however, became the first state to add a non-binary “X” option to drivers licenses in June.