Pakistan will send trans people to volunteer at the annual Hajj pilgrimage at the Islamic Holy Site of Mecca.
The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage that Muslims who are financially and physically capable must undertake at least once in their lifetimes. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia with this year’s Hajj running from Sunday 19 August to 24 August.
Trans people will make up a team of more than 150 volunteers from Boy Scouts groups across Pakistan.
They will work as Khuddamul Hujjaj – volunteers to the pilgrims and will accompany pilgrims from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia.
‘Efforts for sending transgender youth to Saudi Arabia to serve as Khuddamul Hujjaj are underway,’ the head of Sindh Boys Scouts Atif Amin Husain told The Express Tribune.
All volunteers have to do a physical and medical test. The Pakistan Boy Scouts Association then sends a list of successful candidates to Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony for approval.
Pakistani organization, Blue Veins, helped with the recruitment of trans volunteers. Blue Veins works closely with the trans community.
‘This can be a game changer and can significantly improve the social acceptance of transgender youth in our society,’ said Blue Veins’ program coordinator, Qamar Naseem.
Saudi Arabia blocks trans access to Mecca
The trans people the Boy Scouts will choose, may depend entirely on what gender is in their passport.
Pakistan is one of only a few countries that has a third gender option on passports and national ID cards. People who do not identify as male or female can choose to have their gender represented with an ‘X’.
But trans people who have the ‘X’ gender option in their passport, won’t get entry to Mecca.
The Saudi Arabian government application forms to complete the Hajj or Umrah (another pilgrimage) only contain two gender options.
Trans people can technically complete Hajj or Umrah. It just all depends what their passport has male or female in the gender column.
‘It does not matter whether or not the applicant is a transgender, but the passports that is presented must mention the gender as either male or female,’ an official at the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan told the Express Tribune.