Gay Pakistan News & Reports 2001-04


Also see:
Islam and Homosexuality
More information about Islam & Homosexuality can be found at:
Other articles of interest can be found at:
Queer Muslim magazine: Huriyah

Gay Islam discussion groups:

1 From Pakistan to Chicago: writer, gay activist, car salesman 4/01

2 Pakistani Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy 8/01

3 I Left My Country for This? Immigrant sexualtiy and identity 1/02

4 Doubt Cast on Charges That Led to Pakistan Female Rape 7/02

5 Pakistan leader outed in political battle 4/03

6 Pakistani poet’s book made required reading at US college 4/03

7 Gay Pakistani who helped build Frisco’s music scene faces deportation 3/03

8 Acid attack on boy who ‘refused sex with Muslim cleric’ 2/04

9 Homosexuality apparently thriving in Pakistan despite severe punishments 8/04
(about male prostitution with little insight about homosexuality in Pakistan.)

Chicago Tribune

April 22, 2001

From Pakistan to Rogers Park , Chicago
Writer, activist, car salesman — he’s done it all

by Cara Jepsen
Ifti Nasim has gotten in trouble for his writing ever since he was growing up in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), Pakistan. It started when he was 16, at a protest against martial law. He was standing at the lectern, reading a politically charged poem. Suddenly the auditorium doors flew open, and a soldier shot him in the leg. Someone pulled him out of the way before he caught another bullet.

"I put a cloth on my leg and went home," says Nasim, 53. "I didn’t tell anyone. The next day my sister came into my room and saw blood all over." The wound became infected, and he was bedridden for six months. The ordeal ruined a promising career in classic Kathak dance, which relies on intricate footwork. But it did nothing to diminish his budding activism. "When my parents found out, they were very upset," he says. "They told me not to demonstrate. Of course I didn’t listen to them."

But that was the least of his worries. Nasim had known from an early age that he preferred men to women, but he had learned to keep it under wraps. "I could not tell anyone that I could not be with girls — that I liked them so much I wanted to be one," he says. "In Islam you can never be a homosexual. You might as well be a dead person." His parents arranged a marriage for him. "I did not want to live a double life," he says. "I did not want to leave a wife at home and go out and pick up guys. I thought that was a dishonest way of living." He’d read a Life magazine article that showed "gay people living happily ever after in the U.S." and talked his father into bankrolling a three-month trip to America.

The months turned into years. He enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit, continued to write and worked to bring the rest of the family over. He’d assumed his sexuality was a passing stage until he moved to Chicago in 1974 and into the thick of the gay disco scene. "At first I was afraid to go into a gay bar," he says. "But I went in. They were the nicest people on the planet earth. I said, What the [heck] — why haven’t I been here before? It was a non-stop party. I loved it." He also saw some terrible things, such his friends’ getting beaten up and robbed by homophobes. "I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes," he says. "What had happened to the Life magazine story? But the gay liberation movement was on, and I joined."

When he wasn’t selling cars at Loeber Motors (he quit several years ago to write full time, but still drives a gold Mercedes), he wrote poetry in Urdu, Punjabi and English, and continued to hit the clubs. In his poem "A Car Salesman Blues," he writes, "My show room is my stage and / I have a stage fright…I am smiling now but my ulcer is flaring up / One more rejection and I shall fall down / Like a mud wall in the rain." Nasim, who favors fur jackets and ample jewelry, has written three books of poems in Urdu that deal with the ostracism of homosexuals in Third World countries. The most popular, "Narman" (it means hermaphrodite in Persian), was distributed underground in India and Pakistan and sparked a movement called narmani, or honest poetry. While spawning an awareness of gay rights, it also earned him death threats from religious groups.

In 1986 he co-founded Sangat/Chicago, a South Asian Les/Bi/Gay/Transgender organization and support group that takes its name from the Sanskrit word for togetherness. "They’re lost when they come here and find out they’re homosexuals," he says. "They are a minority within a minority." That work got him inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1996. But his frankness about his sexuality has alienated the family he brought over from Pakistan, with whom he has an uneasy truce. "My family isn’t my problem anymore," he says. "I guess I’m their problem."

He doesn’t plan on showing them his new book, "Myrmecophile: Selected Poems, 1980-2000" (Xlibris, 2000), the cover of which shows him in an over-the-top drag getup. (A myrmecophile is defined as an insect of a foreign species that lives more or less permanently in an ant colony.) Its personal and political poems are laced with humor and outrage and touch on everything from pedophilia and homophobia to Princess Diana and the nature of God. In "Infanticide," he writes, "In some primitive tribes / there was a custom: / the parents bury their female offspring / alive. / The birth of a male child was celebrated. / To be gay is like being born as a female offspring. / I would rather be buried alive…"

When he’s not working on a novel set in the disco era, Nasim pens a weekly column for the Pakistan Express newspaper. In it he’s been critical of Muslim policies toward women and homosexuals. "I’m basically a Muslim person," he says. "I don’t practice. But I compensate by helping other people, by doing my activism. But I don’t think activism should be extreme, either." His work inspires extreme reactions. On March 12 Nasim was at a restaurant near his Rogers Park apartment when a Muslim man called him an "abomination" and allegedly threatened him with a knife. Nasim pressed charges.

He can’t discuss the incident — the court date is May 1 — but Nasim says the notoriety surrounding it has deflected attention from his book. "The issue of my being a serious writer is being overlooked now," he says. "I don’t like it. But in a way I’m relieved that people are noticing finally the structure we put into place [in past decades] for gay and lesbian rights. We are seeing the results now. We are standing up for our rights. In a different time I would have walked away. Now I refuse to do that."

New York Times

August 2001

Pakistani Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

by Celia W. Dugger
New Delhi – Dr. Younus Shaikh, a physiology teacher who earned $89 a month at a small college on the second floor of a shopping plaza in Pakistan, was convicted there on Saturday and sentenced to death on charges of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad.
Dr. Shaikh, who has a week to appeal the decision, is one of hundreds of people jailed in Islamic Pakistan on blasphemy charges that carry a mandatory death sentence, whether the offense was intentional or not. The blasphemy law has more typically been applied to religious minorities, but Dr. Shaikh is the third Muslim convicted.

He was arrested in October after some of his students went to a group of fundamentalist teachers of Islam to complain that he had been uttering possibly blasphemous things in class. The students said he had told them that the Prophet had not become a Muslim until age 40 and that before then, he had not followed Muslim practices concerning circumcision or removing his underarm hair. The Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, well known for pursuing blasphemers, filed a criminal complaint and sent a mob to the college and the local police station, threatening to set them on fire.

Dr. Shaikh said in interview earlier this year at the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi that he had addressed questions in his classroom about whether Muhammad had been circumcised before receiving God’s revelations at 40, and only remembers saying the Prophet’s tribe did not follow that practice. His family brought their own teachers to court ó from a different chapter of the same group that brought the charges ó to argue that the doctor had not committed blasphemy because all his remarks dealt with the period before Muhammad had declared his prophethood.

Pakistan’s leaders have acknowledged that the law needs to be revised. The minister for religious affairs, Mahmood Ghazi, a strong advocate of the law, has nonetheless said most cases originate from "ill will and personal prejudice." Pakistan’s military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, last year suggested a procedural change that would have required that blasphemy cases be reviewed by local officials before an arrest. But he quickly backed down when fundamentalists protested in the streets.

Dr. Shaikh has been championed by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a group with which he has been associated. The group issued a statement today denouncing the intimidating presence of what it called "murderous and menacing fundamentalist clergy" in the courtroom during Dr. Shaikh’s trial. "The civilized world should shudder at the news," the statement said, "that in this century a human being can be tried and eventually be killed by Pakistan’s brutal Islamic state for merely saying that neither Prophet Muhammad nor his parents could logically have been Muslims before Islam was revealed to the Prophet."

Asian Week, San Francisco, CA ( )

January 11, 2002

I Left My Country for This? Immigrant sexualtiy and identity.

by Chandan Reddy and Javid Syed
While discussing the sea of changes between queer life in Pakistan and life in the United States, my friend Zain Hadi once remarked: "You know, in Pakistan I was having a lot of sex but I couldn’t call myself ‘gay.’ In America, I can call myself gay, but where is the sex?"

And, while there may be a better way to gauge queer quality-of-life than the enactment of our queer sexualities, Zain’s comment exposes how many of us come to define our queer lives in the diaspora by focusing on its difference to queer life back home. Simultaneously he shows how queer, immigrants of color experiences are often not captured by U.S. mainstream categories like "gay" and "lesbian." And he asks us to imagine a queer immigrant future in which being gay and getting pleasure in the ways that we want don’t cancel each other out.

In this article, we’d like to introduce a couple of handy tools that we have used in SALGA (South Asian Lesbian Gay Association); that we think foster the development of a radical immigrant queer politic. Zain’s remark forces us to recognize the ways in which queer Desi sexualities are compromised in the diaspora and in the subcontinent.

It also points towards the need to develop strategies for activism in two of the sites that recent immigrants are most invested in: where we came from and where we are located. The first tool of queer, immigrant of color, radical organizing is to locate queer diasporic differences, and the second is to define relationships of indifference as we undertake queer Desi projects in the United States.

As immigrant queers construct their sexualities in difference and through indifference, it will make possible for certain types of projects to be taken up by immigrant queer organizers. Hence, for its radical possibilities to emerge, immigrant queer organizing needs to nurture politics and sexualities that are aware of their difference from queer sexualities as they exist in our countries of origin, as well as be indifferent to American mainstream gay and lesbian politics and sexualities. The first recognition of difference demands that as immigrant queers we must understand that the conditions and contexts for queer lives and organizing in our countries of origin are different from those in the United States.

This difference does not mean that our diasporic sexualities are not linked to, informed by or allied with queer sexualities as they exist and emerge in our countries of origin. However, understanding this difference does mean a vigilance and commitment to be aware of and responsible about the differential access to various resources in both those sites. It also makes it necessary for U.S-based queers to be mindful of not replicating mechanisms of imperialism through the rubric of international solidarity work, and thus develop a politic that has at its core a critique of imperialism.

The importance of immigrant queer sexualities’ indifference to the formulation of mainstream gay and lesbian sexualities is that the immigrant sexuality liberates immigrant queers to construct their sexualities in a manner that is most meaningful and pleasurable to them. Immigrant queer sexualities are often performed by racialized, gendered subjects that are negotiating immigration bureaucracies and social and economic vulnerabilities.

Mainstream gay and lesbian politics rarely situate themselves in or speak to this context. Yet, maintaining a stance of indifference toward these mainstream gay and lesbian politics and sexualities of politics frees immigrants from having to reference them, even through an oppositional relationship, while defining their own sexualities and their meanings. On the contrary, this indifference does not mean a lack of understanding of mainstream gay and lesbian sexualities. Even as the models that it nurtures may serve to critique mainstream gay and lesbian sexualities and politics and to connect with other immigrants of color communities, this indifference offers immigrant queers an alternative – from focusing on mainstream inadequacies to defining immigrant queer sexualities and politics.

An understanding of this difference will also help us understand the meanings and conditions that we as queer immigrants of color associate with the notion of citizenship and documentation. Many people think of immigration as exclusively about how one has or does not have legal documentation to reside in the United States. A queer immigrant project emphasizes the social and personal dimensions of immigration: in our current era, immigrant documentation has been a means through which entire diasporic communities are made economically and socially vulnerable to exploitation and violence.

Queer immigrants might take up the securing of citizenship or permanent residency status as one means by which to protect folks in our communities from such violences. At the same time, queer immigrant organizing underscores how gaining citizenship operates as a strategy to ward off violence and not simply as the promotion of new homelands or national identities. In fact, it must be made clear that the action of securing the residency rights of queer Desi folks without building a cultural and social infrastructure is to expose queer Desi folks to an American gay and lesbian culture whose privileging and priorities can once again be alienating and disempowering for immigrants of color.

Hence, immigrant-led and immigrant-focused organizing must be about securing empowerment of queer immigrants as we choose to live and not about "empowerment" through citizenship, and its cultural discourses of assimilation.

To conclude by way of returning to Zain’s remark, it’s important to reiterate what we see as an enabling and founding premise to the formation of a queer immigrant of color activist perspective: whether in relation to South Asia or to the U.S., queer Desi sexual expression is always a compromised articulation. To say our sexualities are compromised does not mean to say that they are non-functional and unfulfilling or even less full and encompassing than gays and lesbians who call themselves liberated in the U.S.

We want to counter the general imperialistic rhetoric that suggests the West is the site of liberation and freedom and that we come to the States to experience gay and lesbian liberation. While coming to the States might provide us with the opportunities to come out, that coming out is always compromised by the fact that we are negotiating our queerness in a larger social world which, due to racism and imperialism, does not recognize or speak to our own ways of being queer. In this way, acknowledging and understanding what compromises our life choices points to projects that queer immigrant of color organizing needs to take up.

This understanding also offers us strategies that we can use to mitigate those very same conditions that compromise our lives in both the diaspora and South Asia by maintaining a vigilant refusal of the technologies of imperialism and assimilation, lest we further divide, as Zain might say, between being gay and getting sex.

(Chandan Reddy has been involved with SALGA and Audre Lorde Project: Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit and Transgender People of Color Communities (ALP) in New York. Javid Syed is the HIV Technical Assistance Trainer at Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center. He has also been involved with SALGA and ALP.)

New York

12 July 2002

Doubt Cast on Charges That Led to Pakistan Rape

by Ian Fisher
Islamabad, Pakistan – The public gang rape of a woman in Punjab province appears to have begun with another crime: three higher-caste tribesman sodomized her 11-year-old brother, then tried to cover up what they had done, an investigation shows.
The boy had even been locked up in a cell by the police to prevent him from reporting on the three men, according to an investigation from the province’s governor, Lt. Gen. Khalid Maqbool.

The latest details seem likely to add to the public outcry in Pakistan over the case, which has prompted widespread calls to rein in the tribal councils. On June 22, a tribal council in the village of Meerwala ordered the rape of Mukhtaran Bibi, of the low-caste Gujar tribe, as punishment for allegations that her younger brother, Abdul Shaqoor, 11, had "illicit relations" with a 30-year-old woman of the higher caste Mastoi tribe. The woman’s age has been variously reported, as either 18 or 30.

Four men carried out the sentence in public, in front of her father, reportedly as much of the village looked on. She was then ordered to walk home naked. The governor’s investigation, as reported by the Agence France-Presse, said that the allegations of an affair were fabricated by the older woman to cover up the sodomy of the boy by her fellow tribesman.

Three out of the four rapists have since been arrested, among a total of 13 arrests in the case, amid outrage among women’s groups and human rights advocates. The Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, has ordered a payment of $8,300 to Ms. Bibi. The family is under police protection to prevent harassment by Mastoi tribesmen. The governor’s investigation also reported that an a local official, identified as Muhammad Iqbal, knew that the boy had been sodomized, and also tried to cover up the crime. "He kept the boy in a cell deliberately and unlawfully so that he could not inform anyone about this crime,` an investigator told the French press agency. The official has reportedly been suspended from his post. U.K.,

22 April 2003

Pakistan leader outed in political battle

The head of a state government in Pakistan is caught in the eye of a political storm after descriptions of his gay lifestyle were leaked to the press in bickering between the country’s spy bosses, reports from the mostly military-ruled South Asian nation said. Pakistan’s Friday Times weekly published an exposé that the chief minister of Pakistan’s southeastern state of Sindh, Ali Mohammed Maher, was gay and loved late-night dancing parties, sometimes in women’s clothes.

In a follow-up report, the U.S.-based South Asian Tribune attributed the press leaks in the conservative Muslim nation to an infighting between two army generals – Ehsanul Haq and his deputy Ehtesham Zamir Jaffery – both of whom command the country’s infamous spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISI was widely suspected of involvement in the killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl last year. "I commend Maher (for being less discreet than other closeted officials)," said Hasan Mujtaba, an openly bisexual intellectual and writer originally from Maher’s home state, from San Diego. "This is something ideological, really mystical, as it has never happened before in history. Not even during the Mogul era in India, when some rulers and princes were highly closeted gays."

The local Sindhi vernacular press blacked out the news item because of Maher’s tribal and political clout. Mujtaba added that the way Maher’s sexuality was presented in the "homophobic" media was all the more deplorable. Mujtaba said, "In Pakistan’s peculiar context, none would come to (Maher’s) defense. This is a prime case for international human and gay rights bodies to lobby and fight for him."

As per Islamic law, called Shariah, which cannot be challenged under Pakistan’s constitution, a gay person can even be sentenced to death. Though no such sentence has ever been actually passed, the law hangs over the heads of gays in Pakistan. Maher’s political future appears sealed. The South Asian Tribune reported, "The immediate fallout of the (spies’) power struggle is likely to be in the Southern province of Sindh, where Chief Minister Ali Mohammed Maher may become its first casualty."

"He is finished. His sexuality would be exploited beyond imagination," commented an engineer of Pakistani origin from Miami, while requesting anonymity. As in Oman, Palestine, Morocco, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, there are closeted gays in Pakistan’s power structure, but any "coming out" is simply inconceivable. Public disgrace and stiff penalties, even death, befall common gay men.

Daily Times,
Lahore, Pakistan ( )

April 30, 2003

Pakistani poet’s book made required reading at US college

Washington – Chicago-based poet and author, Pakistani-born Ifti Nasim, has had one of his books declared "required reading" for a university humanities course. The book, a collection of his poems covering the period 1980-2000 will be used in the fall term for th Humanities 212 class at Truman College, Chicago.

The title of the book is ‘Myrmecophile.’

Rudra Vilius Dundzila, professor of humanities at Truman College, has invited Ifti Nasim to speak to his class which will focus on Arab and Islamic achievements in art and literature. "We’re going to hear from minority voices from Islamic culture, and Ifti’s book will give us the gay perspective," said Dundzila, adding, "I thought it would be perfect." Nasim told Daily Times, "It’s a writer’s dream come true." Nasim, whose works include the first poetry collection on gay themes published in Urdu, ‘Narman’ The book examined the ostracism of those disposed to a different lifestyle and sexual orientation in Third World countries and sparked a movement called Narmani, or honest poetry – as well as death threats for the poet who says, "I’m basically a Muslim person. I don’t practise, but I compensate by helping other people, by doing my activism."

Ifti Nasim’s books in Urdu include ‘Mukhtalif’, published by Sang-Meel Publishers, Lahore.

San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco, CA ( )

March 18, 2003

Keshav Jiwnani is not the enemy: A gay Pakistani who helped build San Francisco’s psy-trance music scene faces deportation and maybe even death
His story is a case study in everything that’s wrong with post-Sept. 11 America.

by Camille T. Taiara
Keshav Jiwnani made a long and difficult journey before he finally found a safe haven where he belongs. Now, if the Bush administration gets its way, a quick plane ride could deliver him back to his persecutors and maybe even to his death. A Pakistani native, Jiwnani is one of thousands facing deportation as a result of an immigration dragnet that President George W. Bush launched through the Immigration and Naturalization Service as part of the government’s "war on terrorism." But even a cursory look at his life shows Jiwnani is no threat to this country. He was actually a victim of Islamic fundamentalism, not a supporter.

Today it’s hard to conceive of him belonging anywhere more than he does in San Francisco. In the Mission District neighborhood where he resides, Jiwnani has transformed a rundown storefront into an intimate sanctuary. Sunlight floods the living room from two large skylights 15 feet above. Plants surround a pillow-laden couch, and ivy crawls across the northern wall. Wooden ladders lead up to self-constructed bedrooms seven feet off the ground, creating cozy corners and workspaces below. On a countertop sit two turntables, remnants of Jiwnani’s pre-CD beginnings as a DJ. A poster of the Hindu god Ganesh adorns one of his warm-hued walls. Like Jiwnani, his home is warm and inviting, bohemian yet contemporary. It speaks to his propensity for creating viable alternatives to the alienation and intolerance suffered by people like him in much of the world. A slender 34-year-old with expressive, deep brown eyes, Jiwnani is both Hindu and gay.

In Pakistan his identity was impossible to hide: his name distinguishes him as a member of the hated religious minority. As he grew up, his demeanor and mannerisms were always more effeminate than those of other boys. In the fundamentalist Muslim nation of his birth, belonging to either of these minorities can bring a death sentence. As a result, Jiwnani said, he suffered severe and repeated intimidation and both physical and sexual violence until he escaped to the United States 17 years ago. Now the federal government wants to send him back. The story of Keshav Jiwnani, known as KJ to his many admirers in the local music scene, is a case study in everything that’s wrong with the crackdown on Middle Eastern and Central Asian immigrants that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "It’s funny that this is the kind of case that special registration is bringing in," Jiwnani’s attorney, Robert Jobe, said. "The idea is to pull in people who may have links to terrorism, but instead they’re pulling in a persecuted gay Pakistani man."

Becoming KJ In many ways Jiwnani represents the San Francisco many of us feared would be lost as a result of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s: a city that has been a mecca of diversity and counterculture, a refuge for the glorious misfits of the world. As a veteran DJ with unparalleled knowledge of electronic music from around the globe, Jiwnani has gained international acclaim for his sonic manipulations and has been instrumental in introducing psy-trance to the local scene. "The music KJ brings has a bit more of a spiritual flavor to it – kind of ethereal, but with a strong dance beat," John Wood, of the San Francisco Late Night Coalition, said. "It’s different from what you hear in the more commercial settings." Wood explained that Jiwnani’s music is rooted in what was initially called Goa trance, a style popularized at beach parties in Goa, India, in the early 1990s. "Goa trance was more Indian-influenced, more melodic, with a much fuller sound," he said. "Over the last few years, the music has become a little more techno. In order to differentiate it, people developed the ‘psy-trance’ label."

An event producer, Wood first met Jiwnani in 1997, when they worked the Halloween party in the Castro District. Jiwnani is a regular at outdoor festivals such as the Pride parade, the Castro Street Fair, Pink Saturday, and the How Weird Street Fair. He also lends his talents to a range of good causes, including the No on Proposition 22 campaign (Prop. 22 was a state ballot initiative in 2000 that would have reinforced prohibitions on same-sex marriages). He’s spun beats at virtually every club in San Francisco that features electronic music: the DNA Lounge, 1015 Folsom, Club 550, and a dozen smaller venues like Liquid and the Galaxy Club. "Electronic music is part of our culture here," said Anna Sitko, co-owner of the record label Eyephunk, who credits Jiwnani with helping her get her business off the ground back in 1999. Friends say Jiwnani has helped many people launch their own careers in the electronic music scene – as DJs, promoters, distributors, and more. "The diversity of the electronic music community in San Francisco is really special. Without somebody like KJ, it would die out. He’s devoted to creating environments where people can gather together. I think it’s sometimes overlooked how important that really is."

As Jiwnani contributed to the music scene in San Francisco, he found a sense of acceptance and belonging he hadn’t known before. "I found freedom in music," Jiwnani said. "If I can share that with a lot of people, and people feel the same kind of emotions, then there’s something about that – not about me, but about the music itself – that’s good for their validation, for their faith." Growing up different A gentle, spiritual man who believes everything happens for a reason, Jiwnani always tries to find the lesson to be learned from life’s hardships. But his childhood reads like a horror story. His family had lived on and worked the same land in Karachi for seven generations and owned a grain import-export business. By local standards, they enjoyed a good deal of wealth and status, but that would change. By the time Jiwnani was born, in February 1969, the political turmoil following Pakistan’s secession from India had left the family so destitute that his mother sold him to a granduncle for a pound of salt. It was largely a ceremonial exchange: Jiwnani continued to live under his parents’ care, and his mother eventually bought him back.

But the act attests to their desperation. The family’s adversities were the direct result of faith-based persecution. The government confiscated their land and their business and froze their bank account. Plagued by the kinds of health problems associated with living in crippling poverty in a third-world nation, only three of Jiwnani’s six siblings survived the first few years of their lives. "My father, grandfather, uncle, and granduncle were arrested and jailed during the 1965 and 1972 wars between India and Pakistan because Hindus are widely perceived to be spies for India," Jiwnani wrote in a declaration supporting his petition for asylum, submitted to the INS this past December, which could allow him to remain in the United States. Whenever tensions rose between Pakistan and India, angry mobs would surround the apartment complex where the Jiwnanis and three other Hindu families lived. Sometimes the mob would appear several times a week. In good times they’d arrive once every two or three months. "More often than not," Jiwnani wrote, "my family and I could not safely enter the temples because of anti-Hindu mobs or riots.

I remember rioters throwing stones at Hindus trying to go to the temple, or setting Hindus’ cars on fire. I also know that Hindus have been killed." At school other kids weren’t allowed to play with him. But the young man had another aspect that singled him out for persecution: being gay in a culture that sees homosexuality as unnatural and its expression grounds for imprisonment, up to 100 lashes, or even death by stoning. By the age of seven, he had been sexually abused by his nanny’s son, a boy twice his age. He soon became a target of sexual abuse by other older boys as well. His sister, Dawn Tuvell, noticed a change in Jiwnani. (Tuvell asked that we not use her Hindu name for this story.) As a child, "he was always very mischievous, always running around," she said. But by the time Jiwnani was a preteen, he had become conspicuously introverted. "The changes were subtle, but I figured it was part of his growing up," Tuvell recalled. "There were a bunch of neighborhood kids. Sometimes he’d come back [from playing with them] really upset and angry, but none of us paid attention to it. Mostly we assumed it was because somebody had taunted him for being Hindu. Because that was something I had grown up with…. In retrospect, a lot of this makes sense now. I wish I’d known then what I know now. I would’ve been able to help him. But he didn’t say much about it at that time."

Ashamed and fearing repercussions, Jiwnani tried to keep quiet. But when he was 15, one of the older boys outed him at school. "My teacher told me that Allah was never going to forgive me and that I was going to hell," he wrote in his asylum declaration. "She implied that I should convert to Islam and beg for Allah’s forgiveness." He was expelled from school and soon became prey to an older man, a taxi driver, who raped and blackmailed him repeatedly until his mother caught them one day. She blamed her son for bringing shame to their family. She beat him viciously and threatened never to speak to him again. Within months Jiwnani was arrested when police caught him with another man in a local park. Tuvell, who worked at the local Holiday Inn at the time, pulled some strings, borrowed a huge sum of money – more than she could repay at the time – and bribed the police to release him. "[When I went to pick him up,] the policeman told me that if he ever saw Keshav around again, I would never see him again – I would never even find his ashes," said Tuvell, who now lives with her husband and two daughters in Concord. Escape to San Francisco Jiwnani’s senior by 12 years and a mother figure to him throughout his life, Tuvell turned out to be her brother’s savior.

In 1985 she married a U.S. Marine stationed in Pakistan, and they moved to southern California. By December 1986 she had arranged for her brother to enter the United States on a student visa. Jiwnani was 17 years old. "For once in my life, I finally felt free from the oppression that I grew up with in Pakistan," Jiwnani recalled. "I slowly started to come out and to accept myself. When I went to my first gay bar I was like, ‘Oh, there are people actually holding hands, and they’re dancing. It’s all guys in here.’ I had never seen anything like that. "There was also a gay and lesbian community center, where I went to a support group of youth who were also coming out. Just to know there was support like that, and to hear their stories and share my story," Jiwnani, who had already learned English in Pakistan, said.

"To know that what I was feeling was not wrong … it made me feel more connected to the world." But Jiwnani’s visa soon ran out, and an immigration lawyer told Tuvell there was little chance he’d be granted permanent residency without his parents here. He spent the next several years wandering around the country, living on $150 a month from his older brother and sleeping on people’s couches or wherever he could find a floor. He was too scared to work a regular job or to reenroll in college without papers. He found refuge in his music and, in 1997, in San Francisco, where he finally made a stable home in the one place he’d found where he was no longer an outcast. As it turns out, he might have been able to avoid many of the problems with his immigration status. Because of his sexual orientation and his religion, Jiwnani could have qualified for political asylum and, eventually, a green card. But the INS didn’t exactly publicize such options then, and the situation for immigrants has gotten steadily worse since. Congress passed the draconian Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996. Among other things, the law requires that immigrants apply for asylum within a year of arrival or, for those already here, within a year of the act’s implementation. Now his attorney, Jobe, explains, Jiwnani’s best hope for a reprieve is to qualify for "withholding from removal," a status that’s considerably harder to obtain but that would essentially place his deportation on hold. "It doesn’t mean he gets to live here indefinitely," Jobe explained.

"If the Immigration and Naturalization Service can demonstrate in the future that conditions [in Pakistan] have improved, then they can attempt to remove him at that time." In the meantime Jiwnani would be precluded from traveling outside the country or applying for permanent residency. Still, before the Sept. 11 attacks, Jiwnani probably would have had a better chance of being allowed to stay in the country. But thanks to the Bush administration’s crackdown on immigrants from Jiwnani’s region of the world, Jiwnani is now fighting for his life all over again. Also in December, the same month Jiwnani applied for asylum, the federal government began implementing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which requires all "nonimmigrant" men 16 years of age or older from a wide range of mostly Muslim nations to report to the INS to be fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned. The deadline for Pakistanis to "special register," as the process is commonly termed, was Feb. 21. (It has since been extended to March 21.) Fearing that his failure to comply would threaten his chances for asylum, Jiwnani registered at the San Francisco INS office Feb. 18 and was immediately placed in deportation proceedings. The INS Asylum Office has since referred his case to the immigration judge presiding over Jiwnani’s deportation hearings, set to begin July 3. "It could take anywhere between a few months to several years to get a final decision," Jobe said. "In this case it’ll probably be resolved in six to eight months, but you never know with these things."

Facing the music

On a recent Friday night Jiwnani headed to an electronic dance party at a converted warehouse in the Tenderloin. Local trance producers transformed their Psy-Fi 604 compilation CD-release party into a benefit for Jiwnani’s legal defense and asked him to spin. The crowd was multicultural, international. Northern California earthy types commingled with Eurotrash and kids of the hip-hop generation sporting tribal tattoos. The atmosphere attested to the diverse sense of community Jiwnani has helped foster. Behind the CD turntables, Jiwnani flipped through homemade discs of the latest electronica from England, Austria, France, Sweden, and Israel. He added his own sonic touches as he masterfully transitioned from one track to the next, then danced behind the DJ table or answered questions about the artists he was playing and the labels they’re on. For Jiwnani, it’s about re-creating ritual through modern technology – about providing others the opportunity to "dance with their own demons, too." He kept the people moving. "This one’s a floor filler," he said over the reverberations from the booming speakers. Sure enough, even more people joined the already crowded dance floor and gave themselves over to the music.

Throughout the night dozens of friends and fans approached Jiwnani with words of support. Their affection for him was sincere and plain to see. That night the organizers of the event raised $2,000 for Jiwnani – still just a drop in the bucket when it comes to legal fees, but helpful nonetheless and priceless as a symbol of solidarity. KJ, the outpouring seemed to say, is one of us. Indeed, the benefit that night was but one example of the community coming together on Jiwnani’s behalf. His case was initially publicized by the Bay Area Reporter. Then more than 200 people and organizations sent letters to Jiwnani’s attorneys supporting his bid for asylum, including state assemblymember Mark Leno, San Francisco Board of Supervisors president Tom Ammiano, Sups. Chris Daly and Bevan Dufty, Amnesty International, and the San Francisco Late Night Coalition. More than 300 people signed a petition to the same effect. Nonetheless, it was up to Jiwnani himself to take the first step and face down those real-world demons who would exile him once again.

As thousands of Pakistanis flee across the U.S. border to Canada, Jiwnani has decided to fight his case – and to place the most intimate details of his life on display – in the hopes of raising awareness. "I don’t want to be ashamed to ask for protection," said Jiwnani, who is a victim of the same Muslim fundamentalism Bush claims to be battling. "It’s taken a lot of courage to face all this, but at least I’m not running anymore." There was a time when even that option did not exist. Growing up in Pakistan, Jiwnani "was verbally, physically, and sexually assaulted on a regular basis, but even deeper was the truth that there was absolutely no haven for him to find some moments of self-soothing or support," his former therapist, Greg Smith, wrote in a letter to the immigration judge presiding over his case. "Facing the pervasive abuse, lack of any resources for help, and the resultant inner feeling of despair, he could only see the solutions of suicide or leaving his native country. He decided to live, and to leave Pakistan.

"To date his sexual orientation and religious beliefs have not changed, and there is no cause that they should. This makes it impossible for him to return to Pakistan, where then his only recourse would be to either have a life of constant trauma, or no life at all." The struggle with the INS has taken a toll on Jiwnani’s health. Indeed, at this point in his ordeal, Jiwnani weighs a mere 98 pounds. "Sometimes I forget to breathe," he said. Should the INS deport him to Pakistan, he said, "it would be like sending me back to my cage, or to die…. I’d be ostracized. I could be tortured or raped. I’d have to live in constant fear for my life over there…. It’s taken me years to come to terms with [my past]. I don’t want to go back to those dark dungeons that I came from. I want to choose life over death." Now Jiwnani can only hope for the best. But even if the INS allows him to stay, the question remains: who’s next?

Spire special benefit for Keshav Jiwnani, with KJ, Ritter Gluck, and Dr. Spook in the main room (and others in the lounge), Thurs/20, 9 p.m., DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., S.F. Free before 10 p.m., $5 10-11 p.m., $7 after 11 p.m. (415) 626-1409. To contribute to Jiwnani’s legal defense fund, go to or mail a check payable to "San Francisco Late Night Coalition" to 268 Bush St., #2931, San Francisco, CA 94104-3503, and specify "KJ Legal Fund" in the memo section. . E-mail Camille T. Taiara at

The Daily Telegraph
Posted on: Khush online forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of South Asian origin

February 2, 2004

Acid attack on boy who ‘refused sex with Muslim cleric’

by Massoud Ansari in Karachi
On his hospital bed last week, 16-year-old Abid Tanoli sat listless and alone, half of his body covered by burns that all but destroyed both his eyes and left his face horribly disfigured. The teenager talked, with difficulty, of how his life had been destroyed since the fateful day in June 2002 when he refused to have sex with his teacher at a religious school in Pakistan.

The boy was horrifically injured in an acid attack after he rebuffed the Muslim cleric’s sexual advances. Now, he has alarmed Pakistan’s powerful religious establishment by pressing charges against his alleged assailants. A teacher at the school, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and two of his friends are in prison awaiting trial for attempted murder and rape.

All three deny the charges. A fourth alleged attacker is still at large. It is the first such case to be brought against a Muslim cleric and threatens to expose a scandal of sex abuse within Pakistan’s secretive Islamic schools.

Abid was blinded and maimed in the assault, which he says came shortly after he rejected sexual demands from the Islamic teacher at a madrassa in a crowded, lower middle-class district of Karachi. "He threatened to ruin me for life," Abid recalled, "but I didn’t take him seriously. I just stopped going to the madrassa". Abid, who was 14 at the time, told neither parents nor friends what had happened because, he said, he was ashamed.

A few days later, as he played with his brothers and sister at home, he said that his religious teacher – accompanied by three associates – broke into the house, bolted the door and threw acid over him, screaming: "This should be a lesson for your life." Abid was taken to a public hospital, where doctors told him that he would be scarred for life.

Lawyers and campaigners against sexual abuse of children say that it is not uncommon in Pakistan, especially in the segregated surroundings of the country’s estimated 20,000 religious schools, but cases involving members of the clergy are rarely – if ever – exposed. "They are either hushed up and sorted out within the confines of school, or parents are pressurised not to report the incident to the media as it would give religion a bad name," said Zia Ahmed Awan, the president of Madadgaar, a joint project of LHRLA (Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid) and Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund.

Haroon Tanoli, Abid’s father, met strong resistance when he tried to take up his son’s case with officials at the school. He says that they offered to help him secure a cash payment from the alleged attackers, provided that he did not involve the police. Since then, he has been threatened with harsh consequences for refusing to back down. "I despise hypocrites who sport huge beards in the name of religion and hinder the passage of justice in the name of Islam," said Mr Tanoli. "I had a beard, and all my four sons were studying in a madrassa.

However, following this incident, the first thing I did was to pull my children out of the madrassa – and shave off my beard." Even as Abid was receiving treatment, the religious authorities pressed the hospital to discharge him. Mr Tanoli managed to get him admitted to a different hospital, where he is being treated free, although the family cannot afford an operation to save his sight. Mr Tanoli refuses to back down, despite being offered one million rupees (£12,000) by the teacher’s relations if he withdraws the charges. He has moved to a secret location for his own safety.

Information appearing on is the copyright of Telegraph Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence.

(Praeterea tanto discendi affectu repente sum animatus, ut huic soli rei unice inhiarem, et incassum me vivere aestimarem, si diem sine tali quolibet actu transigerem. (Moreover I was suddenly inspired with such great love of learning that I aspired to nothing else and considered any day wasted if I did not accomplish something related to learning.) Guibert of Nogent (ca.1055-ca.1125 C.E.)

Khush is the oldest online forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of South Asian origin. Read online: Post to list: List managers:

National Public Radio, Washington, CD
News Analysis Transcript

August 3, 2004

Homosexuality apparently thriving in Pakistan despite severe punishments

(Note from GlobalGayz: this report is more about male prostitution and offers little insight about the truth of homosexuality in Pakistan.)

Noah Adams, host
In some Islamic countries, gay men don’t fare well. Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia have executed some in the past decade. That’s according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association. In 1998, the Taliban killed at least three men for sodomy by bulldozing a brick wall over them. In Pakistan, homosexual sex is punishable by whipping, imprisonment or execution, depending on the court and the region. In some Pakistani courts, execution is the only punishment for sodomy under Islamic law, or Sharia. And yet it is an open secret that across classes and social backgrounds, men have sex with men in Pakistan. Miranda Kennedy has a report.

Mirand Kennedy reporting:
The streets of Peshawar are clogged with brightly painted trucks, Afghan refugees hawking stolen goods and women in billowing white burqas. This is the capital of Pakistan’s most conservative province, the Northwest Frontier Province on the border with Afghanistan. It’s the region that helped breed the Taliban and where the Pakistani government believes al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, continue to seek refuge. Yet it’s here, more than anywhere else in Pakistan, that homosexuality thrives.Sayed Mudassir Shah is a Peshawar-based human rights activist. He says historically, many ethnic Pashtun men who dominate the region have had young boyfriends whom they keep in the male room of the house, which is called the hujra.

Mr. SAYED MUDASSIR SHAH (Human Rights Activist): (Through Translator) The active guy is of older age, and the passive one is of younger age, and there are different dialects and they’re known by different names, like larke, warkai, alec. It’s so common that it’s part of the folklore, and one of the verses says that the woman is crying and telling her husband, `Look, you’re making me jealous because you’re going to the hujra with your boyfriend, and you will spend the night with him.’

KENNEDY: Locals say that for centuries, powerful men in this region have taken boyfriends to demonstrate their prestige and wealth. The dominant partner often coerces the boy into the relationship, buys him food and clothes and forbids him to marry. Coercion is the norm in homosexual relationships across Pakistan. According to the Islamabad-based Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, boys are victims of some 55 percent of reported cases of child sexual abuse in Pakistan.

A 16-year-old who only identifies himself as Qurum(ph) knows all about that.QURUM: (Through Translator) My father died when I was young, and so when I was eight, I had to go out to support the family. My employer at the tea shop sexually assaulted me. After a while, I realized that doing that pays. I moved to a bigger city, and started having sex with men for money. I don’t like what I do, but I am doing it for my sister’s education.

KENNEDY: Many men in Pakistan tell stories similar to Qurum’s. It’s not uncommon for men to bribe or force young boys to have sex with them. According to many accounts, homosexual sex is even common in Pakistan’s gender-segregated madrassas, or religious schools. Shawar(ph), who wouldn’t give his full name, lives in Lahore. He first had sex with a young boy because it was easy. Now at age 32, he’s married and has four children.

KENNEDY: He often comes here, to Lahore’s red-light district, where he pays boys to let him have sex with them on string beds in the back rooms of shops. But it’s something he is deeply ashamed of.

SHAWAR: (Through Translator) I know that having sex with the boys is wrong, but I am addicted to it. I have tried to stop this, but the demons don’t let me stop. Homosexual sex should not be legal in Pakistan. According to the Koran, according to Allah, this should not be legal.

KENNEDY: Like many men who have homosexual sex in Pakistan’s red-light areas and public parks, Shawar doesn’t use a condom and doesn’t know about AIDS. There are groups working against the spread of AIDS in Pakistan, but their work is often hampered by the strong cultural disapproval of homosexuality. According to Pakistan’s official figures, there were only some 2,000 cases of AIDS in that country, as of last year. But the World Health Organization and UNAIDS estimated the figure at 78,000 two years ago.

Ms. HINA JILANI (Human Rights Lawyer): Homosexuality is widely prevalent in Pakistan. It’s not as if it’s a rare phenomenon in this country. The fact is that it does exist; people just don’t want to acknowledge it.

KENNEDY: Hina Jilani is a veteran human rights lawyer in Lahore.

Ms. JILANI: Even people like myself, who do understand this issue, have not been able to take it up. The acceptance of that particular relationship, I think, is still absent from this society, and because of that, those individuals remain very vulnerable.

KENNEDY: Because men who have homosexual sex in Pakistan are vulnerable to both attack and prosecution, they rarely identify as gay in the Western sense of the term. But among Pakistan’s urban elite, there is a growing community of men who’ve come out as homosexual. They meet on the Internet or at private parties with heavy security. But they are a tiny, terrified minority. Most men in Pakistan who have sex with men do it in secret, often abusively. Then they go home to their family and pray to Allah to forgive them.
For NPR News, I’m Miranda Kennedy.

From the Inter Press Service

August 7, 2004

Pakistani Sex Workers Come Together to Fight HIV/AIDS

by Zofeen T. Ebrahim
Placing her cell phone on the table, Zulekha runs her fingers through her long, streaked hair and smiles uncertainly. Next to her, Mariam, stifles a yawn and apologises. ”I had a late night,” she adds, reading the text message on her phone.
Then there is Bakhtawar who chews on the ‘ghutka’ (a tobacco and betel-nut concoction) — her stained teeth bearing testimony to it.

Looking up and down suspiciously, she sizes this correspondent up and asks bluntly if she’s from a newspaper.
Janat is the most welcoming, also the most advanced in age. She beams and says she has finally learnt to write her name through the female literacy programme that is currently being run in the neighbourhood.

The other two in the room, remain silent throughout the discussion and their input is just limited to smiling and acknowledging what others had to say. These six female sex workers (FSWs), belonging to a community, especially vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, have mobilised themselves and taken up social marketing of condom as one of their tasks.

They have not only begun to use them for prevention, but have convinced the women in their community that its use is not just for ”preventing pregnancies” but helps protect them from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). And best of all, they have started stocking them up in their homes for easy access for the rest of the community and for free too. ”It was embarrassing to go to the corner shop or a pharmacy and ask for a condom. Then there was always the fear factor of harassment by the police. This is far more convenient. We can just send a message through someone and in a couple of minutes, it is in our hands,” says Zulekha.

This group was formed as part of the pilot project under the aegis of Greenstar Social Marketing, in 2003, in Serey Ghat, the red light district in Hyderabad. The only one of its kind with the aim of imparting awareness about STIs and HIV/AIDS among sex workers, without stigmatising or demoralising them. The project is funded by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS )and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with Greenstar as the implementing partner in close coordination with the National and Sindh AIDS Control Programme.

Serey Ghat is the fourth largest red light area in Pakistan (others located in Karachi, Lahore and Multan). According to a KAP (Knowledge, Attitude and Practices) survey carried out by Greenstar the there are about 101 households, 70 active brothels and about 100 sex workers in this area. Informants revealed that many of the FSWs had migrated to cities like Karachi and Lahore when a ban was imposed on their activities during Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime in the 1980s. What makes it all the more befuddling is that the NGO decided to launch a pilot project in a place where all activities have been banned for sometime by the government.

Even more mystifying is that the government is one of the project’s partners. In fact, the National AIDS Control Programmes (NACP) sets the guidelines for all HIV/AIDS interventions, including those with sex workers. For the public, Serey Ghat is out of bounds as far as prostitution is concerned, yet these activities are carried out on the sly. " The government invited bids for this project. They have declared sex work as illegal, but are cognizant that this practice exists,” explains Alya Mian, Greenstar’s senior communications manager.

”Our task has become all the more complicated due to this policy of the government as the target population migrates to other cities and within residential areas where we cannot reach out to them or help them in a concerted and more organised manner,” explains Mian. Zulekha, for instance, comes to Karachi for ‘private performances’ nearly every Friday, and leaves on Sunday. Her ‘private performances’ are in some of Karachi’s leading hotels where she meets up with individual clients and has ‘programmes’ of singing and dancing for mostly overseas clients – mainly from Dubai.

But these six FSWs have probably no idea of the huge role they have played in their neighbourhood, of breaking the silence surrounding HIV/AIDS. Out of 168 FSWs, 158 decided to come to the primary health clinic, run by Greenstar, for voluntary testing for HIV/AIDS. And that is not all. The Sindh Aids Control Programme has given each 158 of them a clean bill for HIV — at least for now.
Since 1987, after the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in Pakistan, the number of reported cases has gradually increased and if not nipped now, the disease will jump from the vulnerable group and spill over into the general population.

It is estimated that between 70,000 and 80,000 of Pakistan’s population of 140 million is HIV positive.
Official figures are much lower. Towards the end of last year 1,942 cases of HIV and 231 of AIDS cases were reported to the NACP.
”Of course we had heard of HIV/AIDS (through television mostly) before these people came and told us,” says Janat.
But she says the early messages were not clear.

”For instance, we didn’t know we could get it, we perceived it to be a ‘western’ disease. We had no idea it could be transmitted through used syringes or that it can be transmitted to unborn and suckling babies,” adds Janat. All the six FSWs who now work as peer outreach workers — as they are known in the development jargon — find their job of visiting house-to-house ”difficult and at times embarrassing.”

”It’s not easy to visit your relatives and talk about condoms, teaching them the art of negotiating about the use of condom with their clients or convincing them that it is alright to go to the doctor and get treated for STIs,” says Janat. ”But it gets easier with time,” adds Mariam, who has acquired a new-found confidence in herself. ”My friends and relatives tease me and call me Dr. Mariam. I feel good that I’m doing something positive for my community,” she beams.
This feature is sourced from IPS News Agency but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this feature, please retain the credit and disclaimer. Quotation or extracts should include attribution to the original source. The copyright is with UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Inter Press Service (IPS), civil society’s leading news agency, was set up in 1964 as a non-profit international cooperative of journalists. In 1994, in order to strengthen its non-profit identity, IPS changed its legal status to that of a ‘public-benefit organisation for development cooperation’, open to journalists, professional communicators and bodies active in the fields of information and communication.