A member of the transgender community has recently been denied the opportunity of travelling as a pilgrim for Umrah. The reason for denial is the “X” printed in the gender column on CNIC and passport, indicating a non-binary gender.
Supreme Court previously ordered the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to specify the transgender on registration forms. Owing to that some transgenders got their CNICs and passports stamped with “X” in the gender column.
Farzana Jan—the first transgender who got a passport with an “X” in the gender column, applauded the government’s initiative for lawfully recognizing the transgender community but at the same time, she believed that this initiative has deprived them of visiting the Holy house for performing religious obligations like Hajj.
Jan said that it is very saddening to know that we can travel around the world with an “X” in gender column in our passport but we cannot go for Hajj or Umrah.
The government’s delay relating informing the Saudi government about this initiative is making problems for the transgender community.
After seeing that how one of their members got a denial from visiting Saudi Arab for Umrah the rest of the community members are discouraged from getting their CNICs and passports stamped with “X”.
The unjust is also reflected in the compulsory Hajj form for the government-sponsorship scheme as the form is provided with only two columns—Male or Female.
A senior official from the Ministry of Religious Affairs informed that so far, no instructions have been received from the government about the inclusion of a third column in the Hajj form, and the ones having “X” stamped in their gender columns cannot apply via this form.
Qamar Naseem—transgender rights activist said that it is strange that the government has not taken any action to inform the Saudi government about this development.
Naseem indicated that many transgender community members who have their genders specified as male or female had performed both Hajj and Umrah.
The officials at the Saudi Arab embassy in Islamabad told that they are entertaining only those applications for Hajj and Umrah who have specified gender description either male or female.
The official mentioned that it does not matter whether the applicant is a transgender, however, the passport which is used for applying must have a specified gender male or female.
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