Widely considered as the greatest and the oldest democracy, the framers of the United States of America (USA)’s constitution never fully intended to grant rights for the marginalised communities such as those of slaves and humans of colour. In 1789, when the American constitution was passed, the framers hadn’t drafted any law that offered protection to communities other than their own. It took almost 80 odd years for the Thirteenth amendment to be passed in 1865, which finally abolished slavery.
What followed the thirteenth amendment was a string of cases that still advocated for a separate but equal system for the people of colour. What this really meant was that, even though people of colour weren’t slaves anymore, they still weren’t considered full human, enough to live in a society with the citizens of the United States.
Concomitantly, Pakistan, a country that came into existence for the rights of minorities, specifically Muslims, was founded solely on the grounds to end atrocities committed by the Hindu majority of the subcontinent over other marginalised communities. In 1947, when Pakistan came into being, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jannah, bellowed, in his first session with the Constituent Assembly, several significant points including the right of minorities.
Juxtaposing, the framers’ intentions while formulating the American and Pakistani constitution, our framers intended rights for minorities while the American framer’s didn’t, however, in reality, it was the American constitution which amended itself to provide rights to minorities, while the Pakistani constitution didn’t, at least not in essence.
Examples of this include the recent desecration of a Hindu temple in Rahim Yar Khan and the main focus of the problem I wish to shed light on: no education system for transgender people or other marginalised communities. More importantly, it is common knowledge that because there exists no education system for the transgender people, they aren’t hired for dignified position and r have to either beg or become a part of the pornographic business. Ironically, a Pakistani citizen’s moral compass may take him into the direction that the transgender people are vile because they are mostly prostitutes and nothing should be done about them, which, however, is in my opinion abhorrently wrong but so is our moral compass in several other situations.
Now moving back to the constitutional history of America, rights for people of colour have only come through a legacy of hard fought victories. The initial battle, considering the right to education, came in 1896, a battle which was lost terribly. In a landmark case, “Plessy v. Ferguson” the Supreme Court of the United States legitimised racial segregation by introducing the separate but equal doctrine.
What this meant was that it was legal to create a separate educational institution for people of colour and the American race children would not have to intermingle with them. Tragically, the rationale behind this decision was the intention of the framers of the US constitution. The framers had never considered races other than their own as human and such was the tragedy faced by others. I believe that this ‘separate but equal’ doctrine is also applicable in Pakistan, where children of the transgender community are not welcome at either public or private educational institutions. Statistically, not one such a kind of an educational institution exists, which is in direct contravention of the principle behind formation of Pakistan.
After the Plessy v. Ferguson case, due to humongous efforts by the racial minorities, social change did start to materialise and finally after roughly 60 years, in 1954, a landmark decision, which was in direct contravention of the intention of the US constitution’s framer, in the case ‘Brown v Board of Education’, was delivered by the US Supreme Court. In Brown v Board, the US court declared the Plessy v. Ferguson’ separate but equal doctrine as inherently unequal.
As a result, changes brought about through the earlier case were finally reversed and for the first time in the 200 years of history of the greatest democracy, children of other races were allowed to attend school alongside the American children.
When we look at Pakistan’s constitutional history, we have yet to get our own version of the Brown v Board of Education case but until that comes, we really need to understand that it’s grossly unfair and inherently unequal to not offer a safe place to the transgender people in our educational system.
If immediate steps are not taken, schools such as the one formed in Multan, which offers schooling solely to transgender people, will become more common. Although this would be done in good faith, creating segregated spaces for them would still not grant equal rights to the transgender community.