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The Silent Conversation, a film exploring the transgender community in Pakistanvia William Williamson

Pakistan clerics declare trans marriages legal in Islam

A new religious decree gives transgender people the right to marriage if they have ‘visible signs’ of their identifying gender, under Islamic law

Clerics in Pakistan have decreed that transgender people have rights to marriage and religious burials in line with Islamic law.

The Lahore-based clerics of Tanzeen Ittehad-i-Ummat Pakistan issued a fatwa, obtained by Reuters, stating that female-born transgender people with “visible signs of being male” could marry women, and male-born transgender people with “visible signs of being female” could marry men. However, the ruling said intersex people could not be afforded these rights.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court gave transgender citizens property and inheritance rights back in 2012, with the right to vote the year before. Gay marriage is still outlawed in Pakistan.

The fatwa isn’t legally binding, but is deemed quite influential in a country that follows Islamic teachings. Lahore’s clerics also pointed out that hate crimes and harassment were not permissible under the law.

“Making noises at transgender people, making fun of them, teasing them, or thinking of them as inferior is against sharia law, because such an act amounts to objecting to one of Allah's creations, which is not correct,” the fatwa read.

Since a 23-year-old trans woman, Alisha, was refused treatment in hospital after being shot last month, activists have been putting pressure on officials and leaders to combat violence and hatred towards the trans community. Alisha’s death in Peshawar has since led to an enquiry into criminal negligence on the part of senior doctors.

Speaking about the recent fatwa, Qamar Naseem, a trans activist, told The Telegraph: “This is the first time in history that Muslim clerics have raised their voices in support of the rights of transgender persons. We have to go further for transgender people and the country needs to introduce legislation on it.”

Parveen, another transgender activist, welcomed the decree, but asked the government to take it further and provide identity cards that recognise a third gender.

“I want to marry a male transgender, but to register a marriage I need a national identity card with mention of my gender, which is not available,” she said. “I was kicked out from my family in my childhood. Now authorities are asking for my father’s card number for my ID, but my family refuse to even see my face.”