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Sunday Jun 25 2017

First passport recognising third gender issued to transperson in Pakistan


PESHAWAR: The country has issued its first passport recognising the third gender to a transgender activist, who hailed the move as a progressive step for the marginalised community.

Farzana Riaz, a transgender person from Peshawar, said the new passport would help her campaign globally on behalf of her community.

"I have received my passport, which mentions my gender as X and not as a male or female," Farzana told AFP on Saturday.

Riaz, 30, is the co-founder and president of rights organisation TransActionexplained, "Earlier, I had a passport that had described my gender as a male. But this time, I told the authorities that I won't accept my passport if it does not identify me as a transgender."

Highlighting how the move will help make foreign travel more convenient for her, Riaz stated, "I faced problems at international airports because of a contradiction in my appearance and sex mention on my passport."

Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to legally recognise a third sex in 2009, allowing transgenders to obtain national identity cards (NICs) several of them to also contest in elections.

Modern-day Pakistani transgender people claim to be cultural heirs of the eunuchs who thrived at the courts of the Mughal emperors that ruled the Indian subcontinent for two centuries until the British arrived in the 19th century and banned them.

They number at least half a million people in the country, according to several studies. Like Farzana, many earn their living by being called upon for different rituals, such as blessing newborns or to bring life to weddings and parties as dancers – and, sometimes, in more clandestine ways.

However, despite these signs of integration, they live daily as pariahs, often reduced to begging and prostitution, subjected to extortion and discrimination.

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