Citizens with intersex and transgender conditions may have the opportunity to have distinct sexual identities mentioned on the proposed smart cards, officials familiar with the process said.
The proposal of providing sex-specific smart cards which would replace the existing National Identity (NID) card to all citizens irrespective of age, was first raised at an Election Commission meeting on July 9 and subsequently forwarded to the law ministry.
The ministry is likely to place a bill proposing amendments to the National Identity Registration Act 2010 in the next parliament session starting September 12.
The current act requires the EC to provide an NIC to anyone “eligible” as a voter.
According to sources, the commission gave voting rights to transgender, transsexual and intersexed people in 2008, but they are still identified as either “male” or “female” on their NIDs.
Pinky Hijra, chairperson of the Badhan Hijra Sangha, said there were approximately 100,000 people with distinct sexual identities in the country people who are often incorrectly categorised as “transgender.”
The existing act states that providing false and misleading information or hiding information while applying for NID is a “criminal offence” and punishable with one year of imprisonment or a fine of up to Tk20,000, or both.
“In the existing NID form, the identity of those of our kind remains unspecified as there are no options for gender identification other than ‘male’ and ‘female’,” Pinky said.
Mohsin Ali, director for operations at the Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) project, told the Dhaka Tribune that citizens should have the right to identify themselves properly.
“Transgender and transsexual people should have the opportunity to mention their sexual identities on their ID cards, like other male and female citizens. However, the final decision in this regard rests with the Election Commission.”
Asked about the start of the smart card project, he said: “Nothing can be said definitively until the existing act is amended.”
According to officials involved with the IDEA project, the work on smart cards will begin as soon as the proposal to amend the 2010 act gets clearance.
The card will be valid for 10 years.
Joya Shikder, a member of transgender community, termed the amendment move a “historic” decision.
“We have been deprived of many civil and constitutional rights since the country’s independence. It is really painful to have to identify yourself as male or female when you are neither,” Joya added.
According to article 28 (1) of the constitution, “the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
Except the Department of Immigration and Passport, no other government bodies, including Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics which is responsible for conducting census, recognises these people in their own distinguishable identities.