The country’s prime human rights body has asked the government to set up shelters and special police stations to help alleviate the problems of the transgender community.
National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Chairman Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan told a news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday that the rights body was drafting a law to protect the rights of transgender people.
Flanked by NCHR members Anis Haroon and Fazila Aliani, Chowhan said the rights body was trying to work out solutions for the transgender community’s issues, including social exclusion.
“Their families turn their backs on them and they have no livelihood opportunities so they end up begging or becoming sex workers,” he lamented. “They live in inhuman conditions without any social protection. They should not be condemned like this!”
He recommended that the government establish training centres for the transgender community, and said the Sindh government had vowed to reopen shelters that had been closed down.
“We have asked the government to set up special police stations for transgender people so they can file their complaints,” said Chowhan. Bewailing the law enforcers teasing transgender people, he suggested that transgender people be appointed at the special police stations.
Chowhan said NCHR members had visited the Gadani ship-breaking yard and met with representatives of workers, owners and the provincial government. “We have emphasised labour rights and inspections.”
He said the Sindh administration had assured the members of the commission that a ship-breaking authority was being established to oversee the affairs of the yard.
The NCHR team also talked to representatives of trade unions. The rights body was told that no safety or health measures were in place at the ship-breaking yard when the recent accidents occurred.
Chowhan pointed out that the Pakistan Customs collected around Rs13 billion in duties from the Gadani ship-breaking yard on an annual basis. “If it is regulated, the government revenue will increase further.”
He proposed that the federal and provincial governments work together to improve the working conditions at the yard. “The skilled workers are mostly of Bengali origin and do not have identity cards. Special ID cards or work permits should be issued to them.”
Prisons of Karachi
Members of the human rights commission visited all three prisons in the city. “The Central Jail Karachi houses the most prisoners,” said Chowhan. “The number of inmates is much more than the jail’s capacity.”
On the subject of the conditions at the women’s jail, the NCHR chairman admitted that the number of inmates there was within the capacity of the prison. He added that though the inmates at the juvenile jail were imparted education, the curriculum of jail schools was “quite objectionable”.
“We went through the Islamiat textbooks, which are printed in Jhang and other cities of Punjab, where a particular school of thought prevails,” he lamented. “We have collected copies of the books and would discuss the issue with the provincial government.”
Health as basic right
The NCHR chief said the rights body’s members attended a conference on human rights. “Health is currently not included in the fundamental rights but in the ‘Principles of Policy’ section of the constitution.”
He added that the commission wished to include health in the ‘Right to Life & Liberty’ articles of the constitution as it was difficult to make amendments at present.
Regarding health facilities, Chowhan said: “We found out that there are no hospitals in many areas of Thar, and at the health facilities present, the medical staff is untrained and even quacks are treating people. The health department’s control is negligible.”
On the matter of the families in Gujjar Nullah that have been affected by the anti-encroachment operation, the NCHR chief said the members of the rights body met with them. “We have asked the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and the Sindh government to compensate them.”