I remain extremely concerned for the security of trans human rights defenders in Pakistan. Over the last couple of months, I have been hearing of the continued legitimate threats to trans rights defenders’ safety and security, as well as pushback against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.
Last year, I conducted a video campaign “Diversity in Adversity: stories from SOGI rights defenders” to feature human rights defenders who are peacefully fighting discrimination on the basis of the sexual orientation and gender identity. I have been prioritising this group of defenders throughout my mandate, as they are among the most at risk – they are regularly attacked physically, arbitrarily arrested and detained, their homes and offices frequently raided and broken into, and they are the subject of intense smear campaigns.
In Pakistan, trans defenders have been key actors in ensuring legislative change that would protect trans people in the country. This has resulted in the adoption of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, in 2018. However, over the last couple of months, I have heard of pushback against this law, including by prominent political figures, some of whom voted in favour of the law in 2018. I understand that opponents of the law believe some amendments are needed in order to ensure it is in accordance with the country’s tradition, religion and values. This pushback has resulted in an increase of attacks against trans people and could put them in an extremely vulnerable situation in the future.
Throughout its Fourth Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, I was delighted to note that Pakistan’s authorities reaffirmed its recognition of and commitment to adhere to its international legal obligations to protect the human rights of transgender persons, referring to the “Transgender Persons Act 2018” as a “key law” to promote compliance with those obligations (A/HRC/WG.6/42/PAK/1 at paras 7 and 28) and to see other States sharing concerns regarding the protection of transgender persons in their advanced questions. I strongly hope the situation will not deteriorate further for trangender persons and the defenders of their human rights.