'Happy and Gay' in Pakistan?

But it is still not something to be discussed publicly. When this reporter contacted a different woman he had been told was gay and living openly with her gay husband, she bristled and objected to the call. "Haven't you heard about my marriage?" she asked, denying she was gay.

Being gay in Pakistan "is a social taboo," one gay man said. "Very strong, it's extremely suffocating."

Jaluluddin Ahmed Khan, 27, who describes himself as a "psychotic, sarcastic and socialist blogger from Karachi," blogs regularly about the angst and frustration he believes many Pakistani gay men experience, especially those with traditional parents.

"I came out to them, and told them that I am this way, [but] they keep pestering me about getting married and they did not let me move out of the house, even though I could have," he wrote in December on his blog, Tuzk-e-Jalali. "I don't think I can forgive them, or I will, or I may, I just know that I have anger and hatred against them. And then there is the inevitable feeling of having lost five years of my life fighting with my parents on this one topic. It is a very long period of life, and I felt I was caged, and I want my time back, but alas, it is the greatest of wishes that can not be fulfilled."

Minot has long since revealed her sexuality to her parents and siblings, although she keeps it from most of her extended family. "I come from a conservative family in Peshawar," she said, describing the handful of family members who served in the military and the powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. "And I don't think they would be accepting of me."

Her father, she said, knows about her sexuality but chooses not to acknowledge it.

"When I told my mother, I said, 'Mama, I'm gay.' She turned around and said, 'But gay are men. You are a woman.' I said, 'Yeah. I like women.' She said, 'There's nothing wrong with that. That's very good.' So, I was like, 'I cannot go deeper than that.' The topic was closed and we never spoke about it again."

Clash Between Conservatives and Liberals

In May, 2005 a gay couple caught having sex in the tribal belt along the Afghan border were publicly lashed.

A few months later, when a 42-year-old man in the same area married an impoverished young man, a tribal council told the couple to leave the area or be killed for breaking tribal "values and ethics."

Pakistan's tribal areas have always been more conservative than its settled areas and have always operated under their own set of customs and laws.

But the country as a whole has also always struggled to balance civil law with religious law. The constitution states that sodomy is illegal, punishable with two to 10 years in prison. But in the late 1980s, President Zia-ul-Haq enshrined conservative Islamic law within the country's civil law. The Hudood Ordinance of 1979 lays down violent punishments for adultery, drinking alcohol and sodomy, which can result in a sentence of being stoned to death.

In a place like Lahore (the second largest city in Pakistan), where Pakistanis can often bring wine to restaurants and where parties often include drugs, those laws seem like they come from a different world.

Even there, though, the local film board briefly banned the popular Bollywood movie "Dostana" because the male protagonists of the film pretend to be gay.

But among the elite, among the Pakistanis who travel to the West, where people are more culturally aware and better educated, the culture loosens.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...