LAHORE     -    Rights activists called for implementation of the Transgender Protection Act 2108 in letter and spirit to safeguard transgender rights in Pakistan, as the second edition of an international conference on human rights concluded in Lahore on Sunday.

The Asma Jahangir Conference – Roadmap for Human Rights – had 120 international and national speakers with 20 different sessions. According to organizers, the speakers included panelists from England, America, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Sweden, and Afghanistan.

On second day of the parley, the session on transgender rights was conducted by human rights activist Ali Dayan Hassan who stated that the protection given by law in the Transgender Protection Act 2018 must be enforced in letter and spirit.

The speakers noted that legal protections for transgender persons are bound to have limited efficacy unless accompanied by a campaign of mainstreaming transgender persons within society through a process of sensitisation and awareness, through public private partnerships.

“Prejudice is not just a legal issue but also a social issue and the conference calls upon community, religious, political, and professional leaders to proactively combat bigotry and prejudice towards transgender persons,” they said.

The conference also “notes that sexual and other violence by law enforcement agencies towards transgender persons is endemic” and calls for the accountability of officials engaging in such violence.

Also, the conference demanded rapid adoption of guidelines for the police force; on how to engage with transgender persons ensuring the dignity and due process rights of the members of the community.

The second day of the Asma Jahangir conference Roadmap for Human Rights concluded with remarks by former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, PMLN spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb and PTI senior leader and MNA Monazza Hassan. “It was a rare moment when all parties were seen on the same platform,” said journalist and Asma’s daughter Munizae Jahangir who conducted the proceedings.

Human Rights Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie talked about the centrality of human rights in a thriving democratic society and also the role of her government in supporting human rights initiatives all over the world including Pakistan.

While addressing “Economic and Social Inequality Panel” economist Dr Hafiz Pasha and Shahid Kardar and Qaiser Bengali suggested that the regressive tax system should be revised.

BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal on the panel “Strengthening the Legal Constitutional Framework” lamented that the federal government usurps power from provincial governments despite the rights given to provinces under the 18th Amendment.

On selective accountability, legislative, and judicial failure, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, PML-N leader Shaista Malik, former Attorney General for Pakistan Irfan Qadir, Senator Waleed Iqbal, and former Supreme Court Bar Association President Yasin Azad highlighted that the process was lop sided. It was pointed out that historically and currently the process was being used as a means to achieve political ends. Irfan Qadir stated that accountability had certain conditions which must be met.

It was recommended that legislation must be carried out by rising above politics and by engaging with experts. Kaira stated that the political process was defective as a whole and the society must change their political mindset for change to come. Waleed Iqbal said that a draft was ready with the law minister which dealt with the required changes in NAB law (including bail). Waleed further pointed out that both NAB law and 62 1 (f) were still existing due to the fact that the PML-N had refused to support efforts to change those laws.