Pakistani Court Orders Government Action To Protect Third Sex People

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday directed the federal and provincial governments to sit together and find out amicable solutions to the issues confronting eunuchs...-

The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry issued the direction after hearing progress over its previous orders. Justice Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed and Justice Rahmat Hussain Jafferi were the other members of the bench.

A celebration again seems in order.  I think that the people directly affected by this order or those from the recent Indian decision to add another gender category on electoral rolls will benefit. 

When I see a trend like this, however, it immediately makes me suspicious.  Why are some of those in power in Pakistan doing this?  What gain can they have and how?  For this decision, some of the stated logic is laid bare:

‘For God’s sake make them respectable people and not mere beggars, bring them into mainstream,’

'Respectable people' admittedly has a different ring to it in different variants of English.  However, the general sentiment is objectionable even if not quite as it might be otherwise; they are already 'respectable people', Chief Justice, by any measure of the term.  The logic of the statement and of the plan to allocate jobs or other means to 'bring them into [the] mainstream'  recalls all sorts of projects that would 'develop' people out of who they are.

Of course, in the world we live in, it is not that simple, and all I have done is show you that I am of two minds, neither of which is attached to a body that's actually affected by this issue. If these debates, these ideas, have any value, it is in informing the logic of strategy that attempts to operate at all of these levels at once.  

In this case, if I had to take a shortcut, I would say - someone needs to ask the people who this affects what they think and want, and in a fairly in depth manner and on their terms; that power needs to be redistributed so these choices aren't between wrangling between the courts and the state or national governments but to the extent that can be managed in 'those people's' hands, and the discourse behind the decision needs to be challenged even as the impulse behind tending to the marginalised needs to be at least accepted and possibly applauded, depending on the implications. 

It's a first attempt at a strategic response, from a particular place I sit - the only place.  Add more and stir...

By: on 17 Nov 2009