LAHORE – Pakistani scholars said that transgender Muslims have equal rights to marry, get buried in Muslim ceremonies, ruling any harassment of transgender people a crime under Islam.
“It is permissible for a transgender person with male indications on his body to marry a transgender person with female indications on her body,” the Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat Pakistan, a little-known clerical body in the eastern city of Lahore, said in its fatwa cited by Reuters on Monday, June 26.
“Also, normal men and women can also marry such transgender people as have clear indications on their body,” added the document, signed by 50 scholars.
The Lahore fatwa also recommended that people consider harassment of transgender people a crime under Islam.
“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,” it added.
In Muslim communities, people are usually expected to behave with the sex that they are assigned to anatomically and to conform to the roles that their biological gender commands of them.
According to a number of Muslim Sunni scholars, some people whose transgender condition is legitimate are required to undergo reassessment surgery in order to better conform; as taking a specific role as a female or a male is a vital contribution of an individual to the human society.
Shunned by mainstream society, transgender individuals in the country of 190 million are often forced into begging, prostitution or dancing to earn a living.
In 2012, Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared equal rights for transgender citizens, including the right to inherit property and assets, preceded a year earlier by the right to vote.
Although the Lahore clerics’ fatwa is not legally binding, it was cautiously welcomed by transgender activists who called on the government to make the decree binding federal law.
“We are glad that somebody’s talked about us too,” transgender rights worker Almas Bobby told BBC Urdu.
“By Shari’ah 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.”
Another social worker for gender issues told BBC Urdu that it was a “good step”.
Qamar Nasim said that many police officers had charged people in transgender marriages because “due to a lack of knowledge… they consider it same-sex marriage”.
“This practice can only be stopped when [the] government spread awareness about rights of a transgender person.”
In Islam, changing one’s sex is not permissible if the person (male or female) has complete male or female sex organs.
However, it is possible for the hermaphrodites to get assigned a certain sex, by means of medical intervention (surgical and/or hormonal therapy) and behavioral training.
In 1988, sex-reassignment surgery was declared acceptable under Islamic law by scholars at the world’s oldest Islamic university, Al-Azhar, in Egypt but only for Hermaprodites – people born with both sexual characteristics, physically both male and female –
Sex changes have been deemed legal in Iran since Ayatolla Khomeini passed a fatwa authorizing them for “diagnosed transsexuals” over 25 years ago.