Unusually, I am writing to you to bring to your attention a very troubling legal case in Pakistan, involving Shahzima Tariq and Shamial Raj, who got married in late 2006, and who have since been sentenced to three years imprisonment on the grounds of perjury. The husband, Shamial Raj, was accused of being a woman by his father-in-law. Consistent with the allegations, a court has judged him to be a woman.
However, as you read the details below you will see clear evidence that Shamial Raj was from an early age a gender dysphoric girl, was living as male, had undertaken mastectomy and hysterectomy, and had done all this well before the marriage in question. My own reading of the evidence is that there may be some intersex issues here too.
The two are now serving their sentences, in separate prisons. They are very clearly in love, and are stunned by what has happened. They are mounting an appeal.
Here is a BBC News Report on the case (with photos):
The two enclosed documents below consist of:
( a ) a plea from Nighat Khan of the ASR Women's Resource Centre for letters of support to be sent to the couple. such letters may be valuable in their appeal.
( b ) fuller details of the case, as told by Nighat Khan.
Please send your letters of support, to one of the three emails below:
Enclosure One: Letter from Nighat Khan.
Several of you have sent your support to Shahzina and Shahmial's
sentence for three years (on the grounds of perjury since they had
maintained that Shamial is a man but medical 'evidence' has proved
The ASR women's resource centre and myself are trying to support
them in every way, legally, financially, morally, administratively,
logistically and by giving as much personal support as possible. We
are in the process of engaging a senior high profile lawyer for them
to appeal to the supreme court. Hopefully this will be soon.
Meanwhile I am working to try and get the other cases initiated by
Shahzina's father against Shamial to be quashed.
Although this 'case' has triggered off something of a discussion on
LGBT 'issues' in Pakistan unfortunately it is for most people
a 'case'. What is being lost and what I am absolutely overwhelmed by
is that they have done more than what activists have done
collectively in their lifetimes. They have challenged the 'norm' at
every level and have defied the family, society, the law, religion
and the state. I keep telling them how much I am in awe of them. I
am, I really am.
Whenever I see them in prison (they are in separate ones in two
different cities) they regularly ask if they have been forgotten. I
assure them that a lot of people care and are writing in.
THEY NEED THESE LETTERS ADDRESSED TO THEM EXPRESSING SUPPORT AND
SOLIDARITY.PLEASE SEND THESE AT MY EMAIL ADDRESS AND I WILL GIVE THE
MESSAGES TO THEM.
THIS IS URGENT FOR THEM AT THIS MOMENT, AND FOR THEM TO USE LATER IF
AND WHEN THEY NEED TO MAKE A PETITION.
PLEASE send these. I am trying while attending to all aspects of the
situation that they are in to also keep their morale up and even to
see if they are eating well, have some money on them etc. etc. At
the moment other than moral support and ideas of what they could do
when they come out of prison, they do not need other legal support.
If their lawyers do, I will get back to you and also will get back
for financial support if and when it is needed.
I am also worried about what will happen to them once they are out
on bail or by winning their appeal it will be impossible for them to
be safe here since apart from the fact that Shahzina's father
continues to threaten them, it will be difficult for them to live
here in peace. This case has been so sensationalised that it is
unimaginable that people will leave them alone. Immediately I have
offered for them to stay with me but this is clearly not feasible in
the long run and they will need to work for a living.
Stay with them. AND DO WRITE TO THEM
Please email Nighat at
Enclosure One: Case Details
CASE OF SHAHZIMA TARIQ AND SHAMIAL RAJ'S FOR ENTERING INTO "SAME
BACKGROUND AND DETAILS
In September 2006 Shahzima Tariq and Shamial Raj got married in a
medium large city, Faisalabad,in the Punjab. Both of them knew each
other since they are cousins. Since they were mutually committed to
each other and determined to spend their lives together they decided
to strengthen this commitment by framing it within a marital bond.
This was to them the most `natural' thing to do. This decision was
also precipitated by Shahzima's father Tariq Hussain since he was
determined to marry Shahazina to someone he owed considerable money
Despite the marriage, or because of it, Tariq Hussain and the rest
of Shahzima's family continued to harass them and filed several
charges against Shamial Raj for kidnapping his daughter and for a
number of offences such as fraud. The two of them then approached a
lower court in Faisalabad to prevent such harassment. The lower
court decided in their favour since they produced their marriage
certificate and because both of them were adults. The family
continued to harass them to a point where they thought that their
lives might be at stake.
Shahzima and Shamial then came to Lahore and found a lawyer, Rana
Sajjad Hussain, Advocate High Court, to file a writ petition on
their behalf to the High Court to put a stop to such harassment. The
case was put before the Kh..Mohammad Sharif Judge of the High Court
and the first hearing was set for the 3rd of May 2007. On the 4th of
May the father of Shahzima appeared before the Court and gave
testimony that Shamial was actually a woman. Shahzima and Shamial
did not come to this hearing "because", their counsel
submitted, "they had been threatened the previous night and thought
they may be murdered if they appeared in court". The Judge ordered a
physical examination to be done by a five member medical team at the
government Services Hospital. The report was to be submitted on the
8th of May.
The medical team reported that while Shamial " is a well built
muscular person with moustache and beard and has a hoarse voice"
that physically he is a woman. They did however propose additional
tests. This report changed the nature of the writ application
turning the complainants into defendants. Frightened the two went
into hiding. When they didn't appear on the 9th the Judge ordered
the police to arrest them on the grounds that Shamial had stated in
Court that he "was a boy" but that the medical examination had
proved that he was "a girl" and that therefore he has sworn a wrong
affidavit. Further that during his physical examination and later in
Court Shamial has admitted that he was a woman. The Court gave
notice under Section 193 of the Pakistan Penal Code (perjury) for
both Shamial and Shahzina to show cause as to why they should not be
prosecuted under this section.
As Shamial tells his story he was born a female but that within
himself he knew himself as a man. He has told the doctors, the
Court, his lawyers and myself that in his mind and his heart he is a
man trapped in a woman's body. He always felt this way and when at
the age of 15 he started developing breasts (as he also started
growing a beard) he felt that his life thus far had been spent as a
man that he would get a mastectomy. This he had done in Faisalabad
by a medical team supported by a psychologist. In 2006 he decided
also to have a hysterectomy.
Later that year Shamial and Shahzina got married. Shahzina knew as
Shamial says that he is a "transsexual" but both decided that their
love and support for each other transcended this. They just wanted
to be together. They still want to be together even, as they
stay, "together in the same jail cell". Any separation is for
them "a death" and they would sooner die than be torn apart.
Shahzima and Shamial `disappeard' after the Court order on the 9th
of May. Having missed two hearing of the High Court the Judge issued
non-bailable arrest warrants for them. They were arrested by the
police soon after and Shamial was interned in the Kot Lakpath jail
in Lahore while Shahzina was sent to the Central jail in Faisalabad
the city in which her parent live. They were produced in Court on
the 22nd of May. The Judge asked them to show cause why they should
not be charged under PPC193 (perjury) and section 377 (unnatural
offences). The Court directed them to do this by the 25th of May.
Since their lawyer Mr. Rana Sajjad Hussain, was not allowed by the
jail authorities to meet with them he requested the Court to enforce
his clients' rights to counsel and asked for further time in which
he could consult with them. The Court gave him until the 28th of
Under section 193 of the PPC (which gives a sentence of up to 7
years) the charges are framed and decided immediately. Charges for
section 377 of the PPC, goes for trial. At no point have they been
charged or tried for `lesbianism' and nor for their marriage. The
law in Pakistan is silent on such relationships and defines no
penalties. Islam I am informed while implicitly not sanctioning
relationships that are not clearly heterosexual also does not
prescribe any penalties. The nikah, or marriage contract in Islam is
also a civil contract, that and be withdrawn or annulled by the
parties in contract with each other.
On the 28th of May the Court decided that there was insufficient
evidence to charge Shahzima and Shamial under section 377 (unnatural
offences) and while there were mitigation circumstances under which
perjury was committed it would still give (a lesser) sentence on
that charge. They were given 3 years each. Shahzima is to be
interned in the Central Jail Faisalabad and Shamial in Kot Lakpath
jail Lahore. The Court has also ordered that Shamial be examined by
a psychiatrist in a private hospital where he is to stay for 4
Shahzima and Shamial will appeal the decision either in an inter
court appeal or to the Supreme Court. They will do this as soon as
we who are assisting them can give reasonable advice as to which
court we suggest they go to. They are of course at a complete loss
and stunned with what has happened and the speed at which it has
happened. From filing a writ petition on the 3rd of May against them
being harassed by Shahzima's father they find themselves sentence to
jail for three years within 25 days.
This case highlights the question of gender identity. Shamial
insists that he is a man and Shahzima believes that he is one. That
he said under medical examination and in court on one occasion that
he is a woman is because as he says that he himself got confused as
to what to say under medical examination and because everyone around
him confused him. The doctors' report also mentions him as both
a `she' and a `he', and the court orders lists him as'he/she'
or `she/he'. The media in Pakistan has also sensationalized his
gender identity and has repeatedly written of this as a "she couple"
or "she marriage". The media questions to him in this vein has as he
says only added to his confusion on what to say.
The Judge referred to this a precedent case as indeed it would be in
most parts of the world and most people including lawyers have tried
to keep their distance with the exception of their lawyer Mr. Rana
Sajjad Hussain who has maintained their right to a fair trial.
However since it is now such a high profile case and since the law
is silent on this issue of late several lawyers have offered
assistance. The last Court hearing on the 28th of May was argued by
Mr. Zahid Husain Bokhari an advocate of the Supreme Court. Both
Rana Sajjad Hussain who has been with them as their lawyer form the
beginning and Zahid Husain Bokhari have assisted pro bono as will
those who will be appearing in the Supreme Court. Expenses are still
nevertheless high but so far I have been able to withstand it these.
Unfortunately human and women's rights groups have also been silent
on the issue as have the `liberal/progressive' intelligentsia, and
no feminist lawyers been willing to assist with the case on behalf
of Shahzima and Shamial.
Shamail himself is very clear of his gender identity as is
Shahzima. "His soul" as he says " is male" and that is the only
gender he can be no matter how the law and society see him. "It is
just that I am imprisoned in the wrong body". The question for them
is how they are to convince a court that their conflicting testimony
was not intentional. At the same time both are anxious that
Shahzima's father who has unlimited access to her in Faisalabad
jail, will continue to try and pressure or hoodwink Shahzina into
making a statement against Shamial. Shahzima continues to say in
Court, to the press, to her legal council and to me that she is with
Shamail because she loves him and that she cannot live without him.
He insists that he cannot live without her. Their commitment to each
other in the face of extreme adversity and temptation to take the
easy way out should stand as a example of courage for those of us
who uphold the right for anyone to live their lives according to
their own inclinations and their own sense of being. Shahzima and
Shamial need to be heard. They need to be supported and they need to
know that they are supported. It is their only sustenance in their
respective aloneness. Even if they win the battle in court as they
and those of us supporting them hope, they will still need our
commitment to ensure that their future is safe and that they can
live out their commitment to each other.
You can send your support to Shahzina and Shamial and any
information that may assist in their appeal (relevant to confusions
that may arise in the face of adversity in the lives of transgender
or multiple gender identities) through me at;