LAHORE, January 25, 2018: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) needs to start taking measures now for sensitization and training of polling staff so that transgenders, disabled persons, and women could take part in the electoral process in the upcoming general elections and exercise their right to vote independently, in secret and with dignity. These views were expressed by 30 transgenders, disabled persons, and women rights activists from the platform of Coalition for Inclusive Pakistan, (CIP) here on Thursday. They were of the view that Gender and Disability Electoral Working Group of ECP should prioritize the issue of training of polling staff from the perspective of the rights of transgender and people with disabilities.
Bindiya Rana, focal person of Gender Interactive Alliance, (GIA) said that transgenders are mocked at and ridiculed by people, members of law enforcement agencies, and polling staff when they try to exercise their right to vote. ECP should specifically include right to vote of transgender in its voter education campaigns for upcoming general elections.
Ms Uzma Yaqoob, Executive Director, Forum for Dignity Initiatives, (FDI) said that NADRA staff should not demand medical certificate from transgender people when they apply for National Identity Cards (NICs). NADRA should follow judgement of Supreme Court and issue NICs to transgenders by accepting name of the guru as father.
Ayaz Khan, President, Special People Organization, said that ECP should create awareness about right to vote of people with disabilities through postal ballots. He appreciated Section 12c of Elections Act 2017 which requires ECP to conduct public awareness programs and media campaigns regarding the importance of maximum voter enrollment and participation, in election of women. He urged ECP to include transgenders and people with disabilities along with women in such programs.
Ms Sabiha Shah, Executive Director, Women Development Foundation of Pakistan shared that it was shocking and unfortunate that around 12.17 million women in Pakistan do not have NIC. Disenfranchisement of such a huge number of women is not only violation of their constitutional right to vote but it also reflects low status of women in our society. She urged political parties, NADRA, and ECP to take steps for issuance of NICs to women. She was of the view that women cannot have access to basic services and exercise their rights when they do not have NICs let alone exercising their right to vote.