Currently, it is illegal for transgender Pakistanis to get married—to anyone. But change may be on its way for the Muslim country’s transgender community. A group of 50 Pakistani clerics recently released a fatwa saying that some transgender people should be able to marry, and that abuse and denial of inheritance are unacceptable, the Telegraph reports.
That right to marry is still limited to heterosexual relationships (same-gender marriage is still punishable by life in prison) and is effectively only extended to transgender people who don’t appear transgender.
The fatwa stated that a female-born transgender person having “visible signs of being a male” may marry a woman or a male-born transgender with “visible signs of being a female,” and vice versa.
However, it ruled that a transgender person carrying “visible signs of both genders” — or intersex — may not marry anyone.
Despite the marriage limitations, the fatwa makes clear that acts intended to “humiliate, insult or tease” transgender people is “haraam,” or sinful, and that rights to family inheritance and Muslim burial should be extended to transgender Pakistanis. To deny inheritance, the group said, is “inviting the wrath of God.”
In other words, the group said that if someone appears to be a woman, she should be treated as one, and vice versa. While the fatwa issued by the Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat religious law organization are not legally binding, the group has considerable influence over its tens of thousands of followers in the country.
“This is the first time in history that Muslim clerics have raised their voices in support of the rights of transgender persons,” Qamar Naseem, a transgender community activist, told The Telegraph. “But we have to go further for transgender people and the country needs to introduce legislation on it.”
Pakistani transgender people face violent attacks and discrimination. Last month, one transgender woman was shot in her home and another died after being shot and allegedly denied medical treatment.