Gay Pakistan News & Reports 2010-11

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1 Gay man gets refugee status in S. Korea 1/10

2 Gay-marriage couple remanded to police custody 5/10

3 Pakistan jails couple over gay marriage allegation 6/10

4 The case of the third gender 6/10

5 Pakistan Hires Transgender Workers to Shame Tax Delinquents 7/10

6 The World’s New Gay Rights Battlegrounds 10/10

7 At Risk: Sex, HIV and the Community 12/10

8 Pakistan allows trans men and women their own gender category 4/11

9 Pakistan’s first gay pride celebration sparks online debate 7/11

10 Pakistan Muslim groups condemn US embassy gay meeting 7/11

11 No protest from Pakistan over gay event: US 7/11

12 State Dept. Says Pakistan Did Not Complain About Pride Event 7/11

13 Ifti Nasim Dead 7/11

14 HIV ‘epidemics’ emerging in gay men in North Africa – Middle East 8/11

15 Male adolescent concubinage in Peshawar, Northwestern Pakistan. 8/11

16 Pakistan battles against hidden HIV-Aids menace 8/11

17 US embassy’s pride celebrations: More damage than support 8/11

17a Let’s get one thing straight…I’m not 10/11

18 Major Pakistan newspaper focuses on homosexuality 10/11

January 3, 2010 – UPI

Gay man gets refugee status in S. Korea

Seoul (UPI) — A South Korean court Sunday granted refugee status to a Pakistani man who said his life was endangered in his country because he is gay. The Seoul court reversed an earlier Justice Ministry ruling that rejected the man’s petition on the basis that it failed to meet the United Nation’s refugee criterion of a “well-founded fear of being persecuted,” Yonhap News Agency reported.

“My life, as a homosexual, was in danger in my country. My family and relatives were my enemy. They said I was insulting my family, Islam and my country and threatened that they would report me to police,” said the man, who was not identified by the news agency. The Seoul Administrative Court said the man should be granted refugee status because “there is a high likelihood that the plaintiff will be subject to persecution by the Pakistani government and Muslim society simply because he is gay.”

May 26, 2010 – Daily Times

Gay-marriage couple remanded to police custody

Peshawar – Judicial Magistrate Syed Shaukatullah Shah on Tuesday remanded two people to police custody for allegedly trying to enter into gay marriage on Monday. The alleged couple, Malik Iqbal Khan, 42, and a eunuch Kashif alias Rani, was arrested in a midnight police raid when the guests were celebrating their ‘marriage’ in a Faqirabad neighbourhood. “We arrested the bridegroom, the ‘bride’ and 43 others from the wedding party,” a police official said, adding that all of them were remanded in custody for one day on charges of attending an “illegal” event. He said the couple was arrested from a well-decorated room while the participants of the marriage came from various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Khan, a fertiliser dealer, who already has two wives, denied that he was marrying the eunuch. “It was only a birthday party for Rani, but police arrested us. We had no intention of getting married,” he said. The furious ‘bride’ also insisted it had only been a birthday bash. “I pray there should be more suicide attacks on police because they put people in trouble unnecessarily,” said Rani. Malik Iqbal’s lawyer told the court that his client was only attending a dance function of the eunuchs. Shah Faisal, a senior lawyer, said police brought up the charge of “unnatural sexual offence” against the accused for which the maximum punishment was life imprisonment. Many bearded people on the premises of the Judicial Complex tried to thrash the couple, who were saved by security personnel.

June 2010 – CNN

Pakistan jails couple over gay marriage allegation

by Reza Sayah, CNN
Peshawar, Pakistan (CNN) — Malik Muhammad Iqbal is a man. Rani was born a man but lives as a woman. Both are locked up in a northwest Pakistani jail awaiting trial because police say they tried to get married. In Pakistan, that’s a crime.
“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal,” says the country’s penal code, “shall be punished with imprisonment. “

Eighteen-year-old Rani says Iqbal, a 42-year-old fertilizer dealer, is a friend – not a lover. “We were only celebrating my birthday,” Rani said. But prosecutors say it was a marriage that was taking place. Police smashed their way in, broke up the party, arrested 43 dancing guests, Rani and Iqbal. Iqbal says he was just another guest at the party. “This was not a gay marriage,” he said. “These are just false allegations.”

Peshawar police Chief Shoukat Ali disagrees. Officials say they have photographs and a wedding dress to prove it. “Our investigation shows this man likes these people more than women,” Ali said. “He admitted it. This is a psychological disease when men are attracted to men and not attracted to women.”

In Pakistan, homosexuality is a taboo subject and gay marriage is almost unheard of. But Pakistani human rights groups say about 400,000 men live as women. They are not breaking the law, the group says, because they are eunuchs; not gay. In this mostly conservative Muslim country, they are known as ‘khusra’ – treated as outcasts, dancing and begging to eke out a living.

After decades of discrimination, Pakistan’s Supreme Court recognized khusras as a minority last year – but many are still mocked in public. Rani and Iqbal faced some of those insults at their first court hearing. Wherever they went, cameras followed and people booed. The two, who deny tying the knot, are now tied in handcuffs. If convicted they could get face up to 10 years behind bars.

23 June 2010 – The International Herald Tribune

The case of the third gender

by Dr Meher Zaidi
The incidence of the third gender or transgender is not known in Pakistan. An estimate of transgender persons in India is around 1:400. Pakistan being in the same ethno-geographical class may have parallel results. The discriminatory attitude is even shown in statistical divisions as reported in population reports, 51% females and 49% males. As if the transgender persons do not exist.
According to Madeline H Wyndzen, PhD, a transgendered professor of psychology, “there is similarity in expressed insensitivity to this issue both in psychopathology and the lay man’s attitude. It comes in the form of value judgments as the assumption that transgenderism is a problem and in a “paternal” way of assuming they know what’s best for us.”

In Pakistan the existence of transgendered people has only very recently been acknowledged by the Supreme Court when the chief justice ordered identity cards and medical and other facilities for them. The recent article in The Express Tribune about a survey where 55 per cent people approved acknowledgement of facilities and rights to transgender persons, and 60 per cent did not want to be friends with the same, or be in an office or study place with them shows the general insensitivity to this issue.

This attitude may be due to ‘fear of the unknown’ factor as is evident in children being scared of people different from themselves, or due to experience with transgender persons who are at a lower social and economic ladder. In a society where the entire focus is on male/female segregation and laws based on the “biological” sex differentiation, the existence of “Transgender persons” is just an anomaly to be brushed under the carpet. The social issues of gender identity, their human rights, are very farfetched ideas according to certain “religious” representatives, not to be debated or discussed intellectually as they are imported from foreign countries.

However, the concept of “doing justice “in Islam is very strong. According to the Quran, an Islamic way of life does not exist without the values of egalitarianism being supported, cherished and nurtured in a society where Muslims live. The issues here have become obvious. Are societies where a majority of Muslims live more egalitarian or where there are minority Muslims living but the values are based on liberty, freedom and human rights more egalitarian? As most Muslim laws address the male/female issues, the modern day Muslims seem to interpret all issues about gender based on the biological sex differences. The Pakistani society needs to address the transgender issue on the basis of egalitarianism if they also want to stick to Quranic injunctions.

What is transgender?
There are many identities and definitions but some common issues are discussed. The Gender Identity Disorder (GID) has been classified as a DSM IV, mental disorder. This is being debated again whether it is a mental disorder or not. This group includes transvestites, cross dressers, transvestites and generally people born with a particular sex, identifying themselves as another sex.

A famous chief minister of Sindh in a previous government was a cross dresser, though he kept it to his chief minister house, at night time only. In our culture such practices are accepted quietly but open discussion is taboo to show that “all is well” as prescribed by the law. In the USA there is heated debate on being “gender different” as a “trans right”. People who advocate all rights for transgender persons strongly advocate “inclusion of being gender different as the right of all persons”. People born with no male sexual genitalia but having a male voice and facial hair are also identified as transgender. Such persons are known as “Hijras” in our society but now have come to include all GID persons.

Violence against transgender
There is a concerted effort in the world to bring down the prejudices and violence statistics against Transgender persons as it is seen that the highest rate of death by violent murder in the US and South America, even by the police, is against transgender persons. One in 12 transgender women are murdered in the USA. Sixty per cent of all transgender persons in the USA have been subjected to violent hate crimes due to bigotry and intolerance.
Amnesty International is gravely concerned about police brutality against transgender persons in the USA. I have quoted these examples for Pakistani legislators and policy makers to understand the provisions of laws governing rights to transgender persons removing intolerance and bigotry. Only through legislation ending discrimination against any person based on sex will ensure access of transgender persons to basic right to health, education, employment, civil liberties.

In Pakistan the following issues need urgent attention of both the government and philanthropists:
Health: Due to extreme poverty and lack of access to education and employment, many in this group are earning a living through sex and diseases like HIV AIDS, STDs, and Tuberculosis are rampant in the community. Use of drugs and non-use of condoms further adds to high spread and prevalence. All sources of such programs for detection, diagnosis and treatment should be streamlined and a health card based on ID card should be issued on priority basis. This scheme should be implemented on an urgent basis. The sensitization of health and administrative personnel should be done as a priority.

A primary education program for children and an adult literacy program should be developed and transgender persons should be allowed to take admission in all educational institutions. This should be made compulsory by legislation. Special vocational courses and education should be provided to all transgender persons irrespective of their previous profession or social status. It has been seen that the show biz community and the make-up community has some great artists from this group.

Employment opportunities:
These will open for transgender persons as their education and vocational training improves. Gradually the socio-economic status and profile will change and in some 20 years a major perception change will occur.
Sensitization to transgender issues and compassionate handling should be advocated by everyone in the society. That Pakistan is quite tolerant of transgender persons is evident from the fact that the program “Begum Nawazish Ali” on TV is enjoyed by many and conservative people like Naimatullah Khan and others of the Jamat-e-Islami have graced the guest list. It is high time that we tackle this issue on a more scientific basis and accept transgender persons in educational institutions and provide health services and good employment opportunities to bring them into the mainstream of our socio-economic life.

July 18, 2010 – The New York Times

Pakistan Hires Transgender Workers to Shame Tax Delinquents

by Adam B. Ellick
Karachi, Pakistan — In one of Karachi’s most posh neighborhoods, only half of the 500,000 residents paid their property, maintenance and water taxes last year. As a result, the Clifton Cantonment board, like Pakistan itself, is in serious financial trouble. As my colleague Sabrina Tavernise reports, nationwide, fewer than a million out of 170 million Pakistanis voluntarily filed income tax returns last year. The rate is among the lowest in the world.

In a bid for a solution — and some publicity — the Clifton board borrowed a creative idea that alleviated tax woes in neighboring India: It hired a team of transgendered tax collectors to go door to door to embarrass the rich until they pay. Transgendered people, known as TGs in Pakistan, carry a social stigma in the country, and their presence rattles the rich. For many of the TGs hired by the Clifton board, tax collecting is their first salaried job, and two of them still work as sex workers. “Neighbors will come out and say, ‘Oh, what’s happening?’ and the bad name the person will get, this will maybe convince them to pay taxes,” said Aziz Suharwardy, the board’s vice president. “And that’s exactly what happens.”

The TGs have collected $100,000 in about nine months, 10 times the cost of the program. Still, the TG’s collection barely puts a dent in the board’s $5 million tax revenue shortfall. Two years ago, the Clifton board hired a consultant to employ a more automated system that prevents collectors from pocketing the money they receive. But the employees resisted the computerized system because “their discretion was removed, and discretion is all about money,” said Mr. Suharwardy. He said corruption continued to plague Clifton’s efforts to retrieve taxes.

In a sign of the power of Pakistan’s V.I.P. culture, one collector told me that the TG team recently approached the house of an unknown defaulter. They quickly learned that it was the home of the provincial minister of excise and taxation. The team promptly left without creating its usual spectacle to shame the delinquent taxpayer.

March 9, 2010 – Foriegn Poilcy

The World’s New Gay Rights Battlegrounds

They’re here, they’re queer, and governments from Africa to Asia don’t quite know what to do about it. Four countries where gay rights movements face an upward battle for equality.

by Peter Williams
The struggle for gay rights in the United States has been going on now for decades, brought into the national consciousness by the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s and most recently crystallized by the battles over same-sex marriage and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military. In other parts of the world, however, the fight is in much earlier stages. Here are four countries where nascent gay- and transgender-rights movements are just picking up steam — and meeting some ugly backlash as well.

The battle: Uganda’s Parliament, not content with the colonial-era anti-gay legislation that already exists, is considering the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which seeks to punish “aggravated homosexuality” — essentially, sex if one of the participants is HIV-positive — with death, and other forms of gay sex with life imprisonment. Those who are aware of homosexual activity and fail to report it face up to three years in prison. The bill, which could be voted on as soon as this month, would also criminalize working for gay rights, with a possible sentence of up to seven years.

The outlook: After intense pressure from foreign governments and human rights NGOs, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from the bill, believing that passing it would potentially jeopardize foreign donors’ willingness to send aid to Uganda. But, though the bill has catalyzed action in Uganda and overseas (and focused attention on three American evangelicals who appear to bear some accidental responsibility for the bill’s genesis), anti-gay sentiment is still stubbornly entrenched there, and it will take a lot for that to change. Uganda is far more likely to remain one of the almost 40 African countries that still bans homosexuality altogether than it is to join South Africa, the only country on the continent to legalize gay marriage.

31 December 2010 – Newsline

At Risk: Sex, HIV and the Community

by Huma Khawar
Around 15 years of age, clad in a dirty shalwar kameez, the boy walks around the park, zeroes in on a customer and having struck the deal, takes him to the filthy public toilet located on the premises. The ‘transaction’ takes a few minutes and the boy is out looking for his next client. He makes 30 to 50 rupees per job and in one day he can service several customers – and all of this unprotected sex.

Wearing a green shalwar kameez, kajal on her eyes, sporting bright pink thickly applied lipstick, painted nails and dangling earrings, Anmol, the transgender beggar in Jinnah Super Market greets me with a wide smile. “Baji aaj tu kuch dey do. Itney din baad ayee ho.” Anmol is not the only one of her ilk here. Over the past one year there has been a huge influx of transgender people (hijras) on the streets, in market places and in the public parks of all major cities, where they actively ply their trade – usually one that places them on the fringe of society.

“People perceive transgenders as sex workers, beggars or dancers. Unfortunately that isn’t too far from the truth. A lack of education and employment opportunities forces them to make their living in these ways,” says Sarah Gill, a transgender medical college student in Karachi, who is actively working for transgender peoples’ rights and to end the violence and discrimination faced by them. Gill is president of the Moorat Interactive Society (MIS) and general secretary of the Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA). “There is no acceptance for our community in society. We are a symbol of shame even for our blood relations,” says Gill, who launched the first helpline for transgender people in Pakistan and is working to bring them from being a marginalised community into the mainstream, by creating an enabling environment in which “they can be treated like, and have the same rights as, males in our society.”

“The term MSM has gained currency over the years. It basically refers to males who have sex with males, not men who have sex with men; the latter are just homosexuals. But MSMs includes transgenders who are not men. Actually, there are many who would fall into the MSM category. An MSM could also be a man who has had a sexual experience with another man once in his life, but is essentially heterosexual. By that definition, a majority of the men in the world would be considered MSMs,” says Qasim Iqbal.

HIV-positive since 1999, Iqbal has been working in the HIV sector in Pakistan since 2006. Educated in the US, he holds degrees in Fashion Design and Computer Engineering. Says Iqbal: “In the West when you talk about men who have sex with men, you can clearly identify the majority of them as being ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual.’ However, in our part of the world things are a bit different. Due to our cultural and religious values that result in a general inaccessibility of women, men satiate their urges with other men. Most of the time it is with peers, friends, classmates or neighbourhood kids; at times also with relatives. Sex is also quite common between clerics and their students. And often young waiters at roadside chai wala hotels are sexually abused by truckers passing by.”

“In the north,” adds Iqbal, “‘bachabazi’ is culturally accepted, where an affluent, older man has a young boy as an apprentice of sorts. Everybody knows there is a sexual relationship between the two. Even the wives know it, but look the other way. In the ‘civilised world’ we consider this sexual abuse, but often the boys invite it. They get taken care of and lead a life they would not otherwise. Whether they enjoy it or not, is moot.”

According to Iqbal, Pakistan has a large MSM population. However, he admits, “We have no idea how large, and it would be very difficult to estimate. The number of hijras can be roughly estimated, as they are recognisable. Explaining the difference between the two, Iqbal says that many MSMs would fall into the category of ‘gay boys,’ but unless they acknowledge they are gay, nobody can say so with any authority. By western definition they would not be considered gay, because eventually most of these men in Pakistan do get married to women and have families. However, there are large underground gay communities in the country, comprising such men, who meet and mingle at gay parties every month. And considering there are between 400 to 600 people at a party, you can imagine the numbers.”

Iqbal continues, “Condom use among MSMs is very rare, even within MSM sex workers. If you ask them why, they say, ‘We are not going to get pregnant.’” And they seem oblivious to the dangers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, which they have heard of as a la ilaj bemaari (incurable disease), but ponder over little. Thanks to the HIV ad campaign, a lot of stigma has been attached to the disease, so it has done more harm than help.

Read article

27 April 2011 – PinkNews

Pakistan allows trans men and women their own gender category

by Christopher Brocklebank
A landmark decision has been taken in Pakistan to allow trans people their own gender category on selected official documents.
The country’s Supreme Court has ruled that Pakistanis who do not consider themselves to be either male or female should be allowed to choose an alternative sex when they apply for their national identity cards.

This is startling and positive news given the conservative climate in Pakistan, a country where trans people – known as hijras – are often ridiculed and forced to live in isolation. Many struggle for survival and are unable to secure jobs other than sex work, or even find a place to live away from their families. Often, they are reduced to begging. Illiteracy rates among trans Pakistanis are also reportedly high.

Shehzadi, a trans woman living in Karachi, told the BBC that it was indeed “a difficult life” and that she had known she didn’t fit into either gender since the age of six. She left home as soon as she could, she said, and came to live with other trans people. With the new gender category comes new hope, and some trans men and women are already being employed by the government in their drive to crack down on tax evaders. Those interviewed by the BBC said they were “proud” to be working in such a role.

Additioanl information here

July 03, 2011 – Hindu Times

Pakistan’s first gay pride celebration sparks online debate

Press Trust Of India – Islamabad
The US Embassy’s hosting of Pakistan’s first lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) ‘Pride Celebration’ has spurred a debate in the virtual world, where it is safest to air views on the taboo subject. Most people learnt of the celebration organised on June 26 through a statement posted in the ‘press releases’ section of the US Embassy website. Unlike other press releases from the Embassy, however, this one was not widely circulated among the media. As the release was posted on micro-blogging site Twitter and various Pakistani blogs, people took to the virtual world to debate the consequences of what was possibly the country’s first LGBT event.

The US Embassy’s involvement in the event at a time of rising anti-American sentiments was pointed out by some bloggers. During the event at the US embassy, Charge d’Affaires Richard Hoagland acknowledged the struggle for LGBT rights in Pakistan and said: “I want to be clear: the US Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way”. A person who identified himself only as Ali wrote on the blog of The Express Tribune daily: “To all the straight people out there, think of this. Why would anyone in their right mind choose to be gay in a society that persecutes anything different? I am gay”.

“I would never wish it on anyone else as life can become hell. I would never choose this. But the fact is I don’t have a choice, I am who I am. So I just accept myself and get along with life”. Ali added: “If you ask me to get married, who should I marry? Would you like it if your sister was married to a man who could not make her happy?” He pointed out that the situation is worse for lesbians in Pakistan.

Some bloggers took exception to Pakistan’s opposition to the first resolution passed by the United Nations last month to endorse the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people. Blogger Nuwas Manto criticised Pakistan’s envoy to the UN, Zamir Akram, for his stance on LGBT rights. “We, the Pakistani queer people and our straight alliances, disapprove of the statement by Mr Akram that the resolution has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘fundamental human rights’,” Manto wrote. “I am here to inform the world and Zamir Akram… that homosexuals do exist in Pakistan and that we demand our rights to love people of our own gender or even change our gender when we feel necessary to do so,” read Manto’s post on a blog. “It is our body – the state and the ordinary mullah on the street must keep out of our beds,” he said.

In a related post elsewhere, a gay reader noted that the ‘Pakistan Queer Community’ had been asked to shut up “but it doesn’t mean we will stop speaking up for our personal freedoms”. Manto, in a post for an Indian gay magazine, dwelt on the life of a gay person in Pakistan. He noted that his family had been telling him how “I should become more manly” and that he could not be open about his sexual orientation as that would bring shame to his family.

Several groups like LGBT Pakistan have been floated on Facebook. “Being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-sexual person is a considered a taboo vice in Pakistan and gay rights are close to non-existent. According to law, homosexuality has been illegal in Pakistan since 1860. Unlike in neighbouring India, the law has yet to be repealed,” reads the statement of the group inviting all gays to join.

4 July 2011 – PinkNews

Pakistan Muslim groups condemn US embassy gay meeting

by Staff Writer
Muslim groups in Pakistan have condemned a gay rights event at the US embassy as “social and cultural terrorism”. The June 26th meeting, hosted by US deputy ambassador, Richard Hoagland, was held to support LGBT people in the country. However, the group of faith officials, which also included the head of Pakistan’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, said: “Such people are the curse of society and social garbage.”

According to Associated Press, a statement continued: “They don’t deserve to be Muslim or Pakistani, and the support and protection announced by the US administration for them is the worst social and cultural terrorism against Pakistan.” While homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Pakistan’s constitution, gay sex can lead to punishments of fines, whipping, prison or even death. According to a statement released by the US embassy, Mr Hoagland told LGBT people at the reception: “I want to be clear: the US embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way.”

July 6, 2011 – The Nation

No protest from Pakistan over gay event: US

by Special Correspondent
Washinton – The Obama administration Tuesday endorsed the recent hosting by the American Embassy in Islamabad of the first-ever event to uphold the rights of gay, lesbians and transgender (GLBT), saying the U.S. will continue to speak up for their rights.
“(W)e will speak out for what we think is right anywhere in the world, including in Pakistan,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said while responding to a question about anti-US demonstrations across Pakistan protesting the event.

Asked whether the Pakistan government has lodged a formal complaint with the US over that event, she said, “Not that I’m aware of today. On June 26, the American Embassy in Islamabad hosted the controversial gay rights event at which US Charged’ Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoaglanand assured the Pakistani participants that Washington would continue to support their cause. “I think you know how strongly this (State) Department and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton feels about these issues, that gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights, and that we will speak out for what we think is right anywhere in the world, including in Pakistan,” the spokesperson added.

July 08, 2011 – On Top Magazine

State Department Says Pakistan Did Not Complain About Gay Pride Event

by On Top Magazine Staff
The U.S. State Department says Pakistan did not file an official complaint over a Gay Pride event held at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad last month. The June 26 event was co-hosted by the U.S. deputy ambassador, Richard Hoagland, and the affinity group Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), and was attended by over 75 people, including U.S. Embassy officials, military representatives, foreign diplomats and leaders of the Pakistani LGBT advocacy groups, the Associated Press reported. According to the United Nations, gay sex is illegal in Pakistan and offenders face up to 2 years imprisonment.

The event sparked several demonstrations critical of the move and was condemned by a group of conservative Islamic political and religious officials. “Such people are the curse of society and social garbage,” the group said in a statement. “They don’t deserve to be Muslim or Pakistani, and the support and protection announced by the U.S. administration for them is the worst social and cultural terrorism against Pakistan.”

Hoagland told the crowd at the meeting that the U.S. would support LGBT rights in the country. “I want to be clear: the U.S. Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way,” Hoagland reportedly said.

In a statement issued Friday, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the Pakistani government had not complained about the event. “On June 26, the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan hosted a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Pride event. This gathering, attended by U.S. Mission personnel, representatives of the diplomatic community, and Pakistani civil society leaders, demonstrated continued U.S. Embassy support for human rights, including GLBT rights, in Pakistan. We have not received any official complaint from the Pakistani government over the event.”

25 July, 2011 – MSM Global Forum

Ifti Nasim Dead: Pioneering Gay Pakistani Muslim Poet Dies At 64

by Sophia Tareen Article Date: 24 Jul, 2011
Chicago — Men and women in conservative dress sat quietly before the start of a what promised to be a typical Pakistani Muslim community gathering, until Ifti Nasim – the gay Pakistani Muslim poet, activist and Chicago radio show host – strode in wearing leather pants, a leather overcoat and pimp hat with feather.

The display elicited smiles, and some eye rolls, from audience members. But most at the gathering for dignitaries and business leaders were captivated when he read poems dealing with being Muslim in a post 9-11 world, with some yelling the Urdu word for “repeat” throughout the performance. It was a not an uncommon reaction to Nasim, who for most of his life managed to occupy an unusual – and often difficult – space. He lived as an openly gay Muslim man in Chicago’s South Asian enclave, while garnering respect from more conservative Muslims with his volumes of poetry, provocative humor, flamboyant fashion and advocacy for several Chicago organizations.

Nasim died at a Chicago hospital late Friday following a heart attack, his sister Ajaz Nasreen told The Associated Press. He was 64. “It is a big loss for the community,” said longtime friend and business partner Rana Javed, who ran a local South Asian program, “Sargam Radio,” and newspaper with Nasim for years. The respect Nasim earned in the community was evident at his funeral services and burial Saturday, when hundreds packed into a Chicago mosque to pay their respects and read Quran. A religious memorial service was scheduled Sunday and community leaders said public memorials with poetry readings would follow in the coming weeks.

Nasim said he always knew he was gay, but living openly in his native Pakistan wasn’t an option. He remembered first reading magazine articles about being gay in America and developing his love of fashion by flipping through Vogue. “In Islamic society, gays have no place,” he told WBEZ-FM in Chicago. “America sold the gay culture to me back home. They’re living happily ever after in America. That’s my place, I’ve got to go to America. I was sold. Completely sold.”

Islam forbids homosexuality. While attitudes toward gays have changed among some in Muslim countries, being gay is still considered widely unacceptable and homosexual acts in some Muslim countries are punishable by whipping or death.

Full text of article available here

3 August 2011 – PinkNews

HIV ‘epidemics’ emerging in gay men in North Africa and the Middle East

by Staff Writer
New research suggests that HIV epidemics are emerging in North Africa and the Middle East among men who have sex with men (MSM). According to researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan and Tunisia are seeing high rates of infection in gay and bisexual men. Across the region, homosexuality is illegal or frowned upon in most countries.

The researchers said it was a common belief that little or no data is held on MSM HIV transmissions in North Africa and the Middle East. However, they discovered some reliable and previously unpublished sources. Researcher Ghina Mumtaz told Reuters: “It’s like the black hole in the global HIV map – and this has triggered many controversies and debates around the status of the epidemic.” She added: “Men who have sex with men are still a highly hidden population in the region and there is stigma around this behaviour, but some countries have been able to find creative ways of dealing with the problem and at the same time avoiding the social, cultural and political sensitivities.”

The research, published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine journal, urged countries to do more to address MSM infections.

2011 August 4 – PubMed

Male adolescent concubinage in Peshawar, Northwestern Pakistan.

by de Lind van Wijngaarden JW, Rani B. – a Australian Research Center in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University , Melbourne , Australia.

This paper reports on findings from four interviews held with young men who have experienced male adolescent concubinage relationships with adult men in Peshawar, Northwestern Pakistan. These relationships are referred to by the Pashtun people involved as bacha baazi. Similar relationships (called bacabozlik) were described by Ingeborg Baldauf among the Uzbeks and Pashtun of Afghanistan, based on observations made in the late-1970s. This paper compares Baldauf’s observations with our own, indicating significant differences and similarities. Implications for future research and for social protection programmes are discussed.

9 August 2011 – BBC

Pakistan battles against hidden HIV-Aids menace

For a long time perceptions of Pakistan as a conservative Muslim country encouraged a belief that HIV-Aids incidence would be non-existent or very low. With the number of HIV cases rising the government finally included it in its 2009 national health policy, but as the BBC’s Nosheen Abbas reports, its full extent is still not widely acknowledged. A report on HIV by the UN last year said that 2003 was a key date in the battle against the disease in Pakistan. At that time there was an outbreak of the epidemic when it was discovered that 10% of people among a random sample tested in the city of Larkana city in the province of Sindh were infected.

The findings moved Pakistan up from “low prevalence – high risk” category to a “concentrated epidemic”. The epidemic is concentrated in pockets of high risk groups – including injecting drug users (IDUs), and male, female and hijra (transvestite) sex workers.

‘Attitude of apartheid’
A large number of HIV and Aids cases are also detected among migrants returning from Gulf states. Pakistani drug addicts using syringes in Karachi Drug addicts are a group especially at risk from HIV
. The UN report says that while the prevalence of HIV is low – only 0.1% among the general population – the growing commercial sex industry’s overlap with high risk groups is likely to cause the epidemic to spread to the general population. But experts say the epidemic is not being properly tackled.

Asim Ashraf found out that he was infected with HIV when he was 18. The mandatory medical test for Haj pilgrimage applicants showed his medical status, but he recalls the doctor being hesitant to break the news. “I didn’t know anything about it, all the ads used to state that Aids was not curable and it’s a death sentence – I thought I would die in a couple of days or hours,” he says.

After a couple of tests Asim was lucky finally to find a doctor who explained HIV to him and helped him focus on living life as normally as possible. But when Asim returned to his day job he was ostracised by his fellow workers, who would not sit and eat with him in what he describes as an “attitude of apartheid”.

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7 Sepember 2011 – Fridae

US embassy’s pride celebrations in Islamabad: More damage than support

by Hadi Hussain
Hadi Hussain, a gay activist living in Pakistan, writes that the already unaccepting and hostile climate has turned even worse after the US Embassy in Islamabad hosted a recent LGBT event which triggered a media frenzy and drew the ire of conservative Islamic groups.

In accordance with the US President Barack Obama’s May 31, 2011 GLBT Pride Proclamation that, “we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” US Ambassador for Pakistan, Richard Hoagland and members of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) hosted an event declared as ‘Islamabad’s first ever Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Pride Celebration’ on June 26, 2011 in the Federal Capital of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This high profile event was reportedly attended by 75 people including Mission Officers, U.S. military representatives, foreign diplomats, and leaders of Pakistani LGBT advocacy groups who showed their “support for human rights, including LGBT rights in Pakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society”.

Unthankfully, all the sensational and flowery claptrap peddled around this event turned out to be a disaster for the budding underground Pakistani LGBT movement as the US Embassy conveniently oversaw the repercussions this event would have brought in an already critical country which is fighting against terrorism and radicalization while sacrificing its peace, its liberty, its sovereignty and countless lives of its law enforcement agencies and civilians alike.

Within a few days, the streets of major urban cities of Pakistan namely Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore were hailed with the students and political workers of Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious political party, chanting slogans at their highest pitches against homosexuals and America. For them it was a golden opportunity to kill both ‘the evils with a single stone’. Banners were displayed in major cities, especially in the federal capital, within a few days demanding persecution of gays and accusing Americans of propagating and imposing this ‘westernized’ idea. The lash back didn’t remain limited to the Jamaat-e-Islami only but sooner most of the political parties joined this bandwagon to form a coalition against the government for their menial political interests.

On the other hand, the Pakistani media, especially the local Urdu newspapers and channels dealt with the issue with their usual approach i.e. lacking all the required sensitivity and knowledge to handle this crucial issue. Their sole concern was to raise their TRP’s and circulations and that’s all. Although a few liberal and sensible voices were raised through articles by Nuwas Manto, Hashim bin Rasheed, Marvi Sirmed and Mohsin Sayeed but most of these were published in English dailies or in their online o-peds and blog sections while leaving a huge void for majority Urdu readers. There was a dire need to represent a sensitive and sensible portrayal of the issue in the Urdu media to counter the venomous articles and hate speeches by Orya Maqbool Jaan, Aamir Liaquat and Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, who not only openly condemned homosexuals but also denounced them as sinful, non-Muslims, lesser than human beings and demanded capital punishment for them with full zeal.

Meanwhile, our media circulated and aired all this hate speech while completely overlooking its ethical and social responsibilities. I guess it’s high time that our mushrooming news channels and newspapers start differentiating between free speech and hate speech because without it, they are only damaging the fabric of an already complex and fragile society. This unnecessary brouhaha by our sensational media started not only an untimely debate in our society but also in our households. I had never heard my mother, an ardent Urdu daily follower, having any strong stance against anyone, say it a murder, a rapist or a dacoit but one day she said, “All homosexuals should be stoned to death.”

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October 30, 2011 – Express Tribune

Let’s get one thing straight…I’m not

by Hani Taha
At first glance, the PQM’s flag looks like that of any political party. It proudly displays the star and crescent against a rainbow-hued spectrum of reds, purples and blues, depicting a Pakistan that is not simply green and white, but capable of embracing all shades of being and behaviour. But this isn’t the flag of a political party and the acronym PQM stands for the Pakistan Queer Movement, not — as some may imagine — the Pakistan Qaumi Mahaz.
The brainchild of 18-year-old Nuwas Manto, the PQM, in its own words, seeks “respect, equality and freedoms for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Pakistan.”

“It depends on what you think a movement is,” says Manto, when asked to explain what the PQM aspires to achieve. “You won’t see us marching in pink underwear, for instance. What we are working towards is something like the Progressive Writers’ Movement who aspire to bring about a mental state of change through writing.”

Writing is something Nuwas Manto does a lot of, whether in publications like the Pink Pages or through Facebook on the PQM official page where free-spirited individuals, ‘queer’ or not, discuss the nuances of sexuality openly. Extremely well-read for his 18 years, he is fond of citing the poetry of Abu Nuwas, from whom the first part of his alias is derived. A controversial Arab poet, Abu Nuwas (750-810 AD) lived during the reign of Caliph Haroon al Rashid and caused no end of scandal due to his poems celebrating homosexuality. As a nod to his literary tastes, the second part of his alias is a tribute to Saadat Hassan Manto.

Unlike many who struggle when confronted with the possibility that they may be gay, Manto says he never had any doubts or illusions about his sexuality. “I always knew it,” he says. Also, unlike many who hide their tendencies from their family and friends, Manto wasn’t content to live his life in the proverbial closet, and came out to his family about his sexual preferences. While he was lucky enough not to be cast out of the family, the reaction was mixed. “My mother refused to believe me, even though I think she always suspected it. To this day she keeps trying to fix me up with girls in order to ‘cure’ me.” His brother’s reaction was somewhat different, though he stopped short of actually beating him up. “All my brother said was that homosexuals are paedophiles and that he will never let his kids near me,” reveals Manto, saying that just because he’s gay doesn’t mean he is promiscuous…or a pervert.

These aren’t the only stereotypes that are perpetuated about the gay community, of course. The very word ‘gay’ is used as a derogatory term, liberally used to label men who display what is considered ‘effeminate’ behaviour. Whether or not these men are actually homosexual is irrelevant and, in some circles, displaying emotion or sensitivity is enough to be labelled ‘gay’ or a ‘fag’. And for those who are in fact homosexual, there can be more unpleasant consequences. Xien*, a young gay man who works in the fashion industry, says the least he has to face on a daily basis is “staring, jeering and even unwanted advances. While traveling in public places if people somehow suspect that you’re gay, they choose to make a public display of their disdain. If, god forbid, it’s a bunch of guys, it becomes a competition to prove how masculine they are by putting you down, and even attacking you physically.” He makes an interesting observation, though: “One would find more men involved in such loony acts whereas the female population may not react if the situation involved them instead. I guess it’s something to do with the male ego, along with a lack of awareness.”

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31 Oct, 2011 – The Express Tribune

Major Pakistan newspaper focuses on homosexuality

Tribune magazine and blog editors talk about their coverage of homosexuality and the role the internet plays with the nascent LGBT community in Pakistan.