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Inclusion promise of ID documents not consistently met in Pakistan, El Salvador, reports allege

Inclusion promise of ID documents not consistently met in Pakistan, El Salvador, reports allege

How to draw people who have been previously excluded from normal social recognition into digital identity systems is one of the field’s fundamental challenges, but a new report from Thomson Reuters Foundation suggests that Pakistan is failing its marginalized groups.

The Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) issued by national identity authority NADRA is necessary for many day-to-day processes in the country, from registering for school to applying for a job to opening a bank account.

NADRA says it has reached 96 percent of adults in the country, issuing 120 million CNICs, but that still leaves millions without the national digital ID.

Data breaches from government databases have resulted in harassment of women who do have a CNIC, according to a representative of non-profit advocacy group Digital Rights Foundation. The lack of a data privacy policy, which the government says is coming soon, leaves little recourse for privacy violations, meanwhile.

Several data breaches have been alleged, though NADRA insists that its database remains secure.

For many people, however, getting their data into the database remains a challenge. Until a recent court decision, children of single mothers in the country were effectively excluded from receiving a CNIC, which previously required the registration of their fathers’ credentials.

Women are still much more likely to be excluded from NADRA, Thomson Reuters writes, along with transgender people, migrant workers and people in nomadic communities.

NADRA has opened several women-only registration centers, concentrated in border provinces, to ease the issuance of digital IDs to them.

There are an estimated 2.8 million refugees from Afghanistan living in Pakistan, but only about half are registered with the government, according to the report. Likewise, immigrants from Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar are often undocumented. The country recently reached a million biometric ID cards issued to Afghan refugees, however.

The agency has also taken recent steps to improve its accountability, including the launch of a Centralized Complaint Management System.

Trans people in El Salvador

An extensive new report from Human Rights Watch suggests that the challenges faced by transgender people in Pakistan are similar to those in El Salvador, where denial of rights based on perceived differences from identity documents are catalogued.

The report, produced in cooperation with Comcavis Trans, documents widespread discrimination, often triggered by the examination of identity documents that indicate a different gender then that the person is presenting as in person. This discrimination has kept people out of the formal economy and denial of services, as well as humiliating experiences even in some cases where services are provided in accordance with the law.

A Supreme Court ruling in February said that people should be allowed to change their name as it appears on their identity documents, but planned legislation to make the system more flexible had already been scrapped.

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