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Transgender activists in Pakistan said they plan to appeal to the highest court in the land an Islamic court’s ruling that guts a law aimed at protecting their rights.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed by Parliament in 2018 to secure the fundamental rights of transgender Pakistanis. It ensures their access to legal gender recognition, among other rights.

Many Pakistanis have entrenched beliefs on gender and sexuality and transgender people are often considered outcasts. Some are forced into begging, dancing and even prostitution to earn money. They also live in fear of attacks.

The Federal Shariat Court on Friday struck down several provisions of the landmark law, terming them “un-Islamic.”

It ruled that a person cannot change their gender on the basis of “innermost feeling” or “self-perceived identity” and must conform to the biological sex assigned to them at the time of birth.

The Shariah court has the constitutional mandate of examining and determining whether laws passed by Pakistan’s parliament comply with Islamic doctrine.

Around a dozen activists protested in the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday against the ruling.

Lawyer Sara Malkani, who was speaking at an event organized by the Gender Interactive Alliance, denied the legislation was un-Islamic. She said the existence of two genders did not limit the concept of gender identity and that Islamic texts, including the Quran, did not associate specific behavior to specific genders.

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