The issue of legalizing homosexuality has led to heated arguments in the corridors of power in New Delhi, but that hasn’t stopped a Pakistani gay from professing his love for an Indian man.
A middle-class accounting student from Lahore, who founded a website called ‘Pakistan Gays’ two years ago for homosexuals, says he is in love with an Indian man he met on the Internet.
Yet he harbours no hope of living in a gay relationship in either Pakistan or India where homosexuality is illegal and tolerance for gays low.
“It is difficult to be homosexual in Pakistan…because you always fear that if the people around you knew about your sexuality, what bad feelings they would have about you. We think that we are born this way, but still we feel we are doing wrong,” said the 22-year-old, who spoke to the Boston Globe on condition of anonymity.
The accounting student, who runs the paid website from Internet cafes so his family doesn’t find out, has signed up about 600 members of whom 302 have identified themselves as gay, 241 as bisexual and the rest as transgender.
Homosexuality is a crime punishable by whipping, imprisonment or even death in Pakistan.
However, the report in the Boston Globe said, “But across all classes and social groups, men have sex with men. In villages throughout the country, young boys are often forcibly ‘taken’ by older men, starting a cycle of abuse and revenge that social activists and observers say is the common pattern of homosexual sex in Pakistan.
“Often these boys move to the cities and become prostitutes. Most people know it happens from the police to the wives of the men involved.”
But not all of Pakistan’s gays are leading anonymous lives.
Faisal Alam, a Pakistani American founded Al-Fatiha Foundation, a Washington-based organisation for gay and lesbian Muslims, in 1998.
Closer home, 27-year-old banker Jalaluddin Ahmed Khan has launched a blog to voice the angst of the gay community, which is forced to lead a hush-hush life as same sex relationships are illegal in Pakistan.
Khan describes himself as a “psychotic, sarcastic and socialist blogger from Karachi” who writes about the vibrant gay life in the southern port city and in Pakistan, and invites people “looking for gay love” to join him in the virtual world.
“Homosexuality is religiously unacceptable in Pakistan. Homosexuality is socially unacceptable in Pakistan. (But) Homosexuality is an entrenched cultural truth in Pakistani history. And in Pakistani life today,” Khan wrote about the hypocritical attitude towards gays in his blog “Tuzk-e-Jalali”.
“As long as people are quiet about it and pursue homosexual desires before or after marriage and are not caught in the act, it is OK. Men are allowed incredible leeway in their sexual pursuits as long as they are not discovered,” he wrote.
Khan feels Karachi is the city where homosexuality finds the most social acceptance. “Peshawar and Quetta are cities where acceptance of pederasty and the homosexual act are considered normal but any open avowal of this would not be acceptable to anyone. In contrast, in Karachi people might still accept you for being a homosexual.”
Khan, who claims most Pakistani homosexuals are forced to marry and that some lead active gay lives post-marriage, detailed in a long post his parents’ reaction when he told them he was gay and decided to call off his engagement.
“I am gay. I have told my father, mother and sisters about it. They find it disgusting, wrong and morally corrupt. They are not ready to accept that I am gay…I want to be gay.
“I want to live a life of my choosing. That is not possible if I live with my parents like all other normal Pakistani guys,” he wrote.
Khan says there are hardly any “cruising spots” for gays in Pakistan unlike other parts of the world — “(therefore) beach parties and farm house parties are quite common because of the secluded location”.
But the plus side, according to Khan, is that Pakistan’s gay community is not divided into strong sub-groups like in the rest of the world.