From 'She-Males' to 'Unix': Transgender Rights and the Productive Paradoxes of Pakistani Policing
REGIMES OF LEGALITY: ETHNOGRAPHY OF CRIMINAL CASES IN SOUTH ASIA 258 (Daniela Berti & Devika Bordia eds., 2015)
18 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2011 Last revised: 10 May 2021
Date Written: December 17, 2012
In the summer of 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Government of Pakistan and also the governments of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, and the Northwest Frontier provinces to better provide for Pakistan's transgender citizens. This intervention by the Supreme Court into the social situation facing Pakistani transgender citizens came as a surprise to many casual observers of Pakistan's political and legal landscape, albeit one that was welcomed by many. For others however, including many progressives, the Supreme Court's intervention resulted in as much puzzlement and consternation as it did relief. The Court's finding, for example, that transgenderism is a kind of "gender disorder" - as a predicate for the Court’s action on behalf of transgender individuals - was just one of several aspects of the Court’s 'benevolence' that gave people cause to worry about what the Court was up to.
While the legal and social issues raised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan's recent actions vis-à-vis transgender individuals can be examined in many different ways and for many different purposes, in this chapter I will analyze how and why different conceptions of gender and identity circulated in the events surrounding the Supreme Court's actions. Specifically, I want to examine not only how state actors involved in this litigation articulated, at various times and spaces connected to the events surrounding this litigation, different conceptions of Pakistan’s transgender citizens' gender, but also why these conceptions changed across time and space. Even more specifically, I aim to analyze how and why the gender of the transgender individuals whose welfare was at issue in the Supreme Court changed from the time they were arrested in a police raid on a wedding party in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, until the time they and their brethren were 'liberated' by the Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan. At different moments in this inter-urban and inter-institutional journey, these transgender individuals were considered to be anything from 'she-males, to 'unix,' and also other things as well.
Keywords: Pakistan, transgender, public interest litigation, Islam
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