Pakistan lifts moral ban on transgender romance films

Pakistan lifts moral ban on transgender romance films


A Pakistani film depicting a romance between a married man and a transgender woman was cleared for domestic screenings on Wednesday, officials said, overturning a government ban enforced by Islamist pressure.

Acclaimed by critics, honored with the Cannes Jury Prize and nominated as Pakistan’s entry for next year’s Oscars, the film ‘Joyland’ was due to open in cinemas nationwide on Friday.

But after objections from hard-line Islamists, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information stepped in last week to veto it, declaring the film “violated the norms of decency and morality” and ordering a censorship review.

But Muhammad Tahir Hassan, head of the Central Board of Film Censors, told AFP late Wednesday that “there is no obstacle from the board to screening”.

“Distributors can start showing the film tomorrow morning if they wish,” he added.

In ultra-conservative Pakistan, the rights of the transgender community are ostensibly enshrined in law.

However, under social stigma, most are forced to live on the fringes of society, often resorting to begging, dancing at weddings, or sex work to survive.

Meanwhile, the little protection they enjoy under laws aimed at ending education and discrimination in the workplace is being questioned by Islamist parties.

Transgender activists rallied around the film’s cause on social media after news of the ban.

Rights group Amnesty International said it was part of a “deep-rooted and ongoing push back to ensure their equal place in society”.

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