Promoting Inclusion and Protection: Pakistan's National Strategic Framework for Transgender Persons

December 4, 2023

Group discussion during the consultative session on Transgender Persons Protection and Political Inclusion in Karachi

Pakistan’s commitment to human rights emanates essentially from its Constitution and international commitments to uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens. Articles 8-28 of the Constitution grant all fundamental human rights to each citizen making it incumbent for the state to ensure the provision of equality, dignity, and freedom to all with no discrimination based on gender.  Despite such provisions and constitutional protection the transgender community in Pakistan is extremely vulnerable to discrimination and hate crimes. This discrimination manifests in the multi-fold exclusion of the community from society, making access to political and electoral space very challenging. 

Discrimination against transgender individuals in Pakistan has, for years, resulted in hate speech, violence, and exclusion from the mainstream political landscape. To address these challenges, UNDP Strengthening the Electoral and Legislative Process has formulated the National Strategic Framework for the Protection and Political Inclusion of Transgender Persons in Pakistan. This initiative resulted from a thorough consultative process. The roots of these discriminatory practices are complex and deeply embedded within society. The National Strategic Framework seeks to address these challenges and lay the groundwork for a more inclusive political environment.

A Participatory Approach

A key strength of the National Strategic Framework is its participatory approach. Through five comprehensive consultative meetings in all four provinces and the federal capital. Stakeholders included transgender community members, the Election Commission of Pakistan, NADRA, law enforcement agencies, civil society, and political parties, the framework was developed with the input and contributions of relevant stakeholders. This multi-partner support ensured a comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges faced by the transgender community. Extensively, this consultative process was led by transgender community, some 122 transgender community representatives were part of these consultations across Pakistan. Further, within UNDP SELP this project was led by Ms. Nayab Ali, an active member of the transgender community who supported the project as the Transgender Inclusion Advisor. 

‘In the current political landscape, where transphobia has taken root through hate campaigns, transgender communities have felt neglected. Multiple attempts, including various attacks, have been made to exclude transgender populations from political participation and to deny them a voice in the larger political arena. The suspension of identity cards by Nadra and the Federal Shariat court's judgment have been significant obstacles in this journey.

The development of a National Strategic Framework, achieved through collaboration with political parties, government entities, the community, and all relevant departments, will play a pivotal role in overcoming these challenges. It will ensure the inclusion of the highly vulnerable trans community. Notably, previous efforts have yielded positive results, leading to the reinstatement of the registration of transgender identities in Pakistan. We are hopeful that a joint commitment from all stakeholders will lead to effective mainstreaming of the transgender community.’


A participant during the consultative session in Islamabad

Institutional strengthening to enhance inclusion

The framework operates on three critical levels: electoral inclusion, capacity building of rights holders and duty bearers, and access to services. It is designed to identify challenges within each of these spheres and provide strategic solutions to bridge the gaps that have long hindered transgender individuals from participating fully in the political process. Based on the Charter of Demands that was developed through the support of UNDP’s SELP and UNDP’s Decentralization Human Rights Local Governance project in 2018. In the backdrop of the Transgender Protection Act 2018, this Charter of Demands worked to develop new vocabulary of inclusiveness for the transgender community in political space. The current framework on Transgender Persons Protection and Political Inclusion in Pakistan is a step forward in fostering an inclusive electoral and political process.

The Five-Level Strategic Approach

This framework is structured around a five-level strategic approach:

  1. Legal and Policy Framework: Advocating for inclusive legislation and policies that protect transgender rights.
  2. Awareness and Sensitization: Fostering a greater understanding of transgender issues and promoting acceptance within society.
  3. Access to Political Processes: Ensuring that transgender individuals have equal access to participate in political processes.
  4. Protection and Support: Providing protection and support for transgender individuals who face violence and discrimination.
  5. Coordination and Communication: Facilitating effective coordination among stakeholders and promoting open communication.

Group discussion during the consultative session on Transgender Persons Protection and Political Inclusion in Lahore

The Need for Change

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, was temporarily halted by the Federal Shariat Court in May 2023, citing religious injunctions. This decision led to increased cases of violence, abuse, and discrimination against the transgender community. A critical need for political inclusion and protection of transgender individuals is evident as their marginalization continues to persist.

Between 2015 and 2023, over 91 transgender individuals were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and more than 2,000 cases of violence against the trans community were reported. The actual number is believed to be much higher due to underreporting. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported 72 cases of violence between January 2021 and August 2023 across three provinces, including cases of sexual violence. The lack of legal protection further hinders the community's ability to report and seek justice for these crimes. Additionally, there is a need to ensure that through a joint commitment of partners legislative changes are implemented to enable grass-root change. 
A participant from the transgender community highlighted the urgency of change, saying, "We've suffered for too long in silence. It's time for society and the government to protect our rights and allow us to participate in political processes without fear."


The National Strategic Framework for Transgender Persons Protection and Political Inclusion in Pakistan represents a crucial milestone in fostering inclusivity and safeguarding the rights of the transgender community. By systematically addressing existing gaps, adopting a participatory approach, and implementing a comprehensive five-level strategic plan, this framework aims to establish a more inclusive and secure electoral environment, facilitating meaningful participation in critical political decision-making for transgender individuals. This framework underscores the collaborative commitment of government institutions, national human rights bodies, civil society organizations, and the transgender community. It serves as a beacon of hope, signalling a collective determination to overcome the persistent challenges faced by transgender persons in Pakistan's political landscape.

Importantly, as the nation strides forward, it is imperative to recognize the need for holistic inclusion of the transgender community. This entails mainstreaming their economic, political, and social needs, ensuring that the benefits of this framework not only effectively ensure political participation but encompass all aspects of their lives. Through such holistic measures, Pakistan can truly embrace diversity, equality, and justice, setting a precedent for a more inclusive and equitable democracy.