In a welcome move, the transgender community of Pakistan is now part of the national census
They do count!
In a first, the national population census of Pakistan will now count the transgender community in the country. After a landmark ruling by the Lahore High Court comes after a petition filed last November, which had argued that the country's transgender community had been marginalised and their fundamental rights should be recognised.
The 2017 census is the sixth for the country and comes after a long gap of 19 years.
Although Pakistan's Supreme Court had declared equal rights for transgender citizens, including the right to inherit property and assets, in 2012--they were still shunned by the mainstream society and are often forced into begging, or prostitution to earn a living.
This isn't the first that a country in the south-east region had recognised the transgender community. In 2011, Nepal's census became the first national census globally to allow people to register as a gender other than male or female. While citizens of Bangladesh can choose from three genders for their passports. India isn't lagging far behind as well, as the national census in 2011 too counted transgender people for the first time.
In India, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha last year August. Although, the bill claimed to provide for protection of rights of transgender persons and their welfare and for matters connected there with and incidental thereto, it raised many concerns regarding the accomplishment of its objective. However, it certainly has paved way to a more inclusive society at large.
The transgender community has not only been ostracised by the society, but has also been the target of numerous hate crimes all over the world. We can only hope that this move by Pakistan creates a difference in the rest of the countries in the region, and helps in eradicating the stigma attached to the community.