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Sex-change couple jailed for 3 yrs in Pak

The couple face the sentence for deception as the husband in the relationship, who was born a female, underwent a sex change 16 years ago.

world Updated: May 28, 2007 14:18 IST

A Pakistani court on Monday handed down a three-year jail sentence for deception to a wife and her husband who was born a female and underwent a sex change 16 years ago, DPA reported.

Shahzina Tariq, 26, and husband Shumail Raj, 31, were arrested by police nine days ago after they appealed to the Lahore High Court for protection from relatives seeking to have their marriage annulled on the grounds that it was against Islam for women to wed.

Shumail's gender change came to light during a medical exam by a court doctor.

The judge jailed the couple for misleading the court and directed that Raj should be given psychological treatment. Authorities were also ordered to register a case against the doctors who originally performed the sex reassignment.

The couple says they originally married to protect Shahzina from being sold into marriage to pay off her uncle's gambling debts.

According to Pakistani media, Shahzina said relatives had tortured and threatened to kill her if she did not consent to the forced marriage to a brother-in-law of her uncle.

Meanwhile, the sex change and their subsequent marriage has attracted extreme sentiments in Pakistan.

Although there is no law in Pakistan to prevent their marriage, whether they should be allowed to stay married, considered married, their right to live under one room and to seek divorce for lack of consummation, are the questions being debated.

"Can Raj perform sex?" was another question asked as Daily Times sought views of cross sections.

The role of religion, a dominant question in Pakistan in any situation, is a matter of debate in what is being claimed as the first case in the country. Leaders of the two principal Muslim sects differ while disapproving of the marriage.

Shia cleric Allama Syed Abbas Sherazi says: It depends on the courts to give punishment to such people according to the circumstances to save the society from distraction. In Shia sect the same-sex marriage is considered "haram". The clerics in their Friday prayer sermons should educate the nation about the curse of same sex marriages and obscenity.

But his Sunni counterpart, Maulana Hanif Jalandhari, says: "The court can give the couple a capital punishment, a lifetime imprisonment or a fine."

"The media is spreading vulgarity in Pakistan. The parents should force their children to say their prayers. The clerics should educate Muslims about the conspiracy of the anti-Islamic forces," says Jalandhari.

Zahid Hussain Bokhari, a retired judge, says: There is no law in Pakistan to stop two women from living together. It is against the basic human rights to interfere in their personal matters. The 'nikahnama' (marriage contract) procured by Shumail Raj and Shahzina has no importance. They should not be dealt as married.

SM Masud, a former law minister, says the case should be handled in the light of Islam, as there is no provision in Pakistani law.

"If the husband cannot perform sex, the law gives this right to the wife to get a divorce. Shumail looks like a man, but if "she" cannot perform sex, "her" wife Shahzina has the right to get divorced."

"The couple has not committed any offence, as penetration is essential for imposition of the Section 377 of the Pakistan Panel Code (PCC). Fatwas issued in the past should also be consulted in this case."

If the marriage is a case of women's right or harassment, the Women's Protection Act, passed last year, is silent, says criminal law expert Aftab Bajwa.

First Published: May 28, 2007 14:06 IST