A fatwa issued by a group of clerics in Lahore has declared marriage between transgender individuals, as well as trans and cis individuals, legal.
“It is permissible for a transgender person with male indications on his body to marry a transgender person with female indications on her body,” said the document obtained by Reuters.
“Also, normal men and women can also marry such transgender people as have clear indications on their body.”
But the declaration also said those with “visible signs of both genders” may not marry.
It’s unclear what “indications” alludes to, and the use of the term “normal” to describe cis people can be viewed as insensitive, but it’s a progressive step taken by the Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat Pakistan, a clerical body in eastern Pakistan.
The fatwa is not legally binding, but is likely to influence people’s opinions. The clerics also recommended that harassment of transgender people should be considered a crime under Islamic law. Pakistan’s transgender community had been granted equal rights in 2012 by the Supreme Court, mainly focusing on inheritance and assets. The right to vote had been granted a year earlier. Marriage law has always been more troublesome in Pakistan, though, with homosexual couples unable to marry.
But discrimination – often violent – against trans people, is rife. A month ago a 23-year-old trans woman died after being shot and allegedly refused treatment at Pakistan’s largest public sector hospital, sparking debate in the country.
In some parts of South Asia transgender people are looked upon with religious respect – as bearers of luck, sought after to perform blessings. But despite these communities dating back thousands of years, discrimination has worsened as time’s gone by.
Now most trans people have to make a living by begging, dancing, or sex work.
The BBC reports that the fatwa has been welcomed, with caution, by Pakistan’s transgender community – but they say attitudes still need to improve.
“By Sharia we already had the right [to marry], but unless measures are taken to remove the misconceptions about us in society, the condition of our community will not be changed,” Almas Bobby told BBC Urdu.