The Pakistan Supreme Court has ordered the government to allow trans people the right to a distinct gender.

The court said that trans people, known as hijras, should be able to get national identity cards showing their gender as hijras.

Pakistani hijras, especially those from poor families, are often subject to oppression and harassment and are forced to earn a living through begging and prostitution.

They are often thrown out of their homes by fathers and brothers and face problems when their identity cards show female photos but male genders.

While those from wealthy families can access education and jobs, those from poorer backgrounds say they are abused by society, police and criminal gangs.

Almas Bobby, the president of a hijra association, told Reuters: “It’s a major step toward giving us respect and identity in society. We are slowly getting respect in society. Now people recognise that we are also human beings.”

In July, the Supreme Court ordered that hijras should receive equal protection and support from the government.

The three judges, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali and Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, said that financial support must be given to hijras through Bait-ul-Maal (a worldwide relief and development organisation) or income support programmes.

The Interior Ministry was directed to ensure police provide protection to them from criminal elements.