“Lesbians rights are basic human rights; it is not something out of this world.” Saiqa’s demand
It’s natural that during puberty, one has lots of emotions and sexual feelings and it’s very normal that girls and boys think about opposite sex in a sexual way. At the same time being attracted by same sex is also normal but this doesn’t mean that a person is a gay or lesbian. Some teens realize it at their early life that they’re homosexual and lesbians whereas some know it later in life. Whether it’s a biological disorder, physical disorder, psychological disorder or whatsoever is the reason but traditionally almost all religions has condemned homosexual and lesbian relationships.
“She was sitting beside me in classroom and that was the first time when I felt that my body was stretching towards her like iron filing towards a magnet. I was 17 years old and we were students of second year.” Saiqa, 23 years now, was sharing her experience.
For a vast majority of Pakistan Homosexuality is considered a prohibited practice. Even than one can find a large community of homosexual people in almost all parts of Pakistan and their number is increasing day by day. Pakistani society is mixtures of complex landscape where we have pluralistic society and children grow up under the strict obligations of religion/ faith group. They are taught that Same-sex sexual intercourse is a sin, illegal and punishable crime but reversibly Pakistani youth is growing with the tendencies of having feelings and romantic emotions towards same-sex.
Being a patriarchal society, Pakistani woman is considered as a subordinate whereas man is considered a primary authority figure. This gender discrimination has opened the doors of different restrictions and gender inequalities have created unfavorable circumstances for girls’ life style prospects. Pakistani society provides most favorable environment to promote homosexuals and lesbians culture. In Pakistani society families allow their girls to have friendship with their female class mates, they can sleep with girls on one bed, they can spend a lot of time with their female friends in their bed rooms, they can hang out with them without any objection, and they can have female friends on face book but when it comes to have male friends this will become a disaster for their families. Lesbian culture can easily be observed in girls hostels, universities, colleges and now even in girls schools. The cruel social norms related to having male friend have changed the sexual approach of girls and made it easy for them to establish physical relations with same sex.
Saiqa belongs to a very religious family. She has one brother and one sister. Her father is a doctor whereas mother is a house wife. The entrance of unknown male into the house was prohibited. Her family came to know about her un-natural relationship with her class fellow (Nazish) when she was 21 years old and they were looking some reasonable guy for her to get married.
“Mama, I am not finding the real words to explain it but I don’t want to get marry with Haroon as I want to spend my life with Nazish. May be in future we will get married but if it would not be possible then we will at least live together. We will support each other by all means”.
My beloved daughter was arguing with me and I was like a dead person. She was surprising me as from last two years we were searching some reasonable guy for her and continuously she was denying. That day I can’t forget was the worst day of my life when she revealed her sexual orientation as a lesbian. Her elder brother is happily married person whereas her sister in engaged with Ahmed who is her first cousin and they like each other.
“How will I ever handle this?” Saiqa and Nazish were very close to each other but we were not expecting such un-natural relationship between them. Saiqa never felt any attraction towards boys and we were satisfied that our daughter is in safe zone but its more disastrous relationship and unacceptable for us. Our family was and still we are in grieving process with all the accompanying shocks, denial, hate, anger, guilt and sense of loss.
These are the common emotions all parents experience when they came to know that they have lesbian member in their extended family circle. It’s difficult for homosexuals to handle these negative family reactions.
“You know, now you are going to hell”. My father shouted at me. He also abused me and I was brutally beaten by him. Now mostly this happens once in a week. Saiqa was disheartened.
The socioeconomic status of Saiqa’s family is pretty comfortable with a balanced combination of wealth, education, income and occupation. Father and brother hold the house so she has a perfect male dominating environment. Although her mother is a house wife but she has to look after her home. Her father performs his official duty from eight to four and in the evening runs his private clinic. He spends a very small portion of his time with his family and his unavailability at home gave Saiqa an ideal environment to spend a lot of time with her friend at her house and in her bedroom. These all factors may lead Saiqa to become homosexual. They are in relation from last five years. Now they face hurdles and strict rules to see each other. They have not seen each other from last four months but they stay in touch via phone.
In 2014, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission published a report entitled “Violence: Through the Lens of Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Trans People in Asia”. In this report 41 LBT people were interviewed among them 12 identified themselves as lesbians, 5 as bisexual women, 3 as female-to-male transgender individuals, and 17 as khwajasara (a transgender male who identifies as female) (IGLHRC 2014, 8). The majority of those interviewed were from Lahore, but there were also three interviewees from Karachi, one from Islamabad, and one from Multan. They all indicated that they all face family violence against them and this practice is very common due to non acceptance of homosexual activities in our society. One can easily observe that in Pakistan only transgender people have visibility as sexual minority but gay and lesbians have to remain hidden.
“It took me a tremendous amount of courage to be open and honest with my parents. It was my marvelous love, trust and commitment to my relationship with my family. I completely understand that because of our society the shock and disorientation my family feels is a natural part of grieving process. I know they have lost their dreams related to my healthy and acceptable life style. Two years have passed but still they are not accepting this thing. I need their love, support and understanding”.
We are living in a society that misunderstands or is fearful of homosexual people; it will take decades for whole world and centuries in Islamic world to acknowledge homosexuality. In few Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, homosexual activity carries the death penalty whereas in some countries such as Malaysia and Somalia it is consider illegal. Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Tajikistan, Turkey, West Bank (State of Palestine), and most of Indonesia) are the twenty Islamic countries where homosexuality is legal.
To find out the attitudes about homosexuality, a research “The Global Divide on Homosexuality” was conducted in 2013 by Pew Research Center. The survey was conducted in 39 countries from 02 March 2013 to 01 May 2013 and almost 37,653 respondents participated in this survey. “Whether homosexuality should be accepted or rejected by society?” there was the huge variance by region in response to this broader question. The findings reveal that among these 39 countries, in North America, The European Union and Latin America people have acceptance for homosexuality but in Muslim Nations, Africa, Asia and Russia people rejected the acceptance.
In Pakistan almost 87 percent of respondents said that homosexuality should be rejected by society. In our society we have acceptance and allowance for our girls to have good friendship relationship with girls without any negative feelings and doubts. A girl can kiss a girl; she can walk easily by holding the hand of her female friend/partner in college, university, markets, parks and other public places and they can hug each other in front of their families, whereas there is zero tolerance for such acts with male friends. In such circumstance where hard social norm forbids girls to maintain relationship with boy they prefer easy approach relationship, i.e. homosexuality.
“Our society has provided such an ideal environment for girls to become lesbians but when it comes to its acceptance no one accepts this relation. Why?” Saiqa was interrogating, when this fact was exposed I faced a very harsh reaction from my parents’ side. Why don’t they understand my emotions? They need to understand my psychology and they can emerge from this situation by establishing a stronger and closer relationship with me”.
Being a national of an Islamic state for almost all parents this is the most complicated issue to deal with. The path of acceptance is not easy but parents should realize that their doll is still the same individual as she was ever before. In such cases parents only loss the associated hopes of their daughter and still they have opportunity to get back those hopes by understanding their daughters. The most significant thing for parents is to accept and understand their child’s sexuality because homosexuality is not a phase.
Various studies such as Twin study, Chromosome linkage studies, Pheromone studies, Studies of brain structure and Biological theories of etiology of sexual orientation have been conducted to understand the relationship between biology and sexual orientation of a person. These all studies have tried to evaluate the comparative significance of genetics and environment to determine the sexual orientation of homosexuals. These studies indicate that genes, prenatal hormones and brain structures are the basic factors which may be related to the development of homosexuals. A latest study has been published in the journal Psychological Medicine (Online publication November 17 2014). The study was conducted on 800 gays and scientists have found strong evidence that sexual orientation is largely determined by genetics, not by choice.
Ms. Irshad Siraj, psychologist and currently working with one local NGO says, “There are different researches according to those homosexuality is not a mental disorder and it’s something due to genetics. Thus parents should understand that their child is in trouble because of genetics. They need their care and love as due to harsh reaction from their families they can attempt suicide, to deal with stress they can start using drugs and alcohol and they can use defensive mechanism by creating distance with parents and society.”
The normal feeling that parents feel is that their daughter has been led into lesbianism by her friend or someone else. This is misconception and parents should accept it as soon as possible that no one converted and made their daughter a “Lesbian”.
“I realize that Pakistani nation is with homophobic attitudes and there is no such place where my daughter can safely relocate without manufacturing fundamental changes to her behavior. Many times I feel pity for my daughter and I want to give her healthy life. I have taken my daughter to few psycho therapist for getting psychological therapy but still she don’t want to get merry with some boy. She is afraid of being dominated by her husband”
“Biological, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual aspects, humans are meant to be attracted by opposite sex and basic concern is human reproductive function. There are so many hidden reasons behind the decision of the selection of lesbianism but the main reason is the oppression of women by men in both the public and private spheres. Majority of lesbians feel a positive comfort zone mixed with equality in their relationship with women as compare to have relation with men where rejections of unequal and subordinate feelings are higher. So now the number of lesbians in our society is increasing because now there is resistance against men and girls are more independent as compared to past” Ms. Irshad added.
In May 2013, Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, two former Pakistan based girls got married in United Kingdom. This was the first incident of its type where Pakistani Muslim girls got married. In Islam there is no concept of girl-girl marriage. Lesbianism means a woman having sexual relations with another woman. This is undoubtedly haraam, and some scholars regard it as a major sin. The imams are agreed that there is no hadd punishment for lesbianism because it is not zina (unlawful sexual intercourse), rather it is to be punished with a ta’zeer punishment in which the judge punishes the one who does that with a punishment which will deter her and others from doing this haraam action.
“Ok, Homosexuality is one of the most hideous, horrible sins and utmost crimes in Islam but what about those Molanas who commit this crime in Mosques with innocent boys? They conduct this favorite crime in the premises of Mosques but no laws for them. This is happening everywhere in Pakistan but how many Molanas have been sentenced to death? If this is really about condemning sin, then all sinners should be punished equally, not just a particular targeted group. Saiqa aggressively added.
October 2005, news about first gay marriage in conservative Muslim Pakistani society was published on BBC News. According to news Liaquat Ali, 42, Afghan Refugee married a local tribesman Markeen, 16, in Tirah Valley of Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Upon hearing of the marriage and man's religious infidelity, a tribal council asked the pair to leave the area or face death.
Being a religious country where homosexuality cannot be accepted in our society another open culture of gay can be observed. Gay sex or having 'Londa' is very common in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Tribal Areas of DG Khan and Southern areas of Pakistan and this is culturally accepted homosexual activity in conservative Pakistani society. If you travel to Tehsil Taunsa and Tehsil Tribal for DG Khan and Mountains of Balouch tribes i.e. Sakhi Sarwar, Kala Mountain and Fort Mondro and similarly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa you will observe that having an innocent beautiful charming boy with every Nawab and Sardar is considered to be a 'Man' life style. They actually, love the boy more than their wife and the “Londa” gets respect from their family members as well as from servants. History witnesses that most of the tribal wars are caused due to the disrespect of the boy by the others. One can also observe this with the Truck Drivers having some little boy with them.
According to Section 377 PPC-Dafa 377-Pakistan Penal Code-Unnatural offences:
“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than two years nor more than ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Mr. Ahmad Siddiqi, Law expert said “We have the law but pertaining to prosecution homosexuality, the ratio of such cases is very rare in our society. During my twelve years career history I have not seen even a single hearing of such case. I personally understand that it’s a passage towards destruction of humanity and as per my understanding it should not be allowed in our society as homosexuals are not able to seek effective protection from the authorities. Even after granting equal rights as Pakistani citizens by the Supreme Court in 2012, still transgender persons (hijras) in Pakistan are experiencing rejection by society and experience discrimination, intimidation and abuse. How homosexuals can be accepted in our society?”
Due to conservative religious culture, social norms and customs it’s very difficult and also needs a lot of courage to work for the rights of homosexual community. Activists who are openly campaigning for LGBT rights are at high risk from non-state societal actors. In Pakistan Neengar Society, is a single NGO located in Islamabad and Multan is working for the rights of sexual minorities in Pakistan. They are also running a shelter house for LBGT people who face serious threats from their family and society after being exposed as a homosexual at some unidentified place.
One cannot deny the fact that internet and social media are playing vital roles to promote this culture. Because lesbians cannot expose themselves in our society thus to find partners they are deliberately using social media. Twitter and Facebook are their favorite mediums among all social media channels. They have created facebook groups and communities and also fake IDs for this purpose. They use these platforms to search and connect with other homosexuals. They also exchange numbers but before exchange of number one has to pass through a strict screening process as they are very much concerned for their security. There are also few sex brokers in all big cities of Pakistan like Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi who are not only providing the services of male and female escorts but also provide the services of gay and lesbians. They also arrange dance, drink and sex parties for such groups.
“There is no authentic statistical data available regarding the registration of LGBT cases in Pakistan. Similarly there is unavailability of data regarding their exact population but they are in thousands”. Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) told. “In our society LGBT persons from elite class are enjoying some degree of freedom, openness and little acceptance from their family and close friends provided they live tactfully, but majority of people having same-sex relationship are most likely to stay underground due to sever threats to their lives”. He added
In September 2012, The Post reported the murder of a man in Karachi because of his sexual orientation; an acid was thrown on his face and other body parts and he was shot twice. Similarly on 28 April 2014, The Express Tribune reported on the murder of three gay men in Lahore by a father of two, who confessed the brutal murders by saying that he wanted to ‘send out a message about the “evils” of homosexuality.’
When parents came to know about the truth of their child’s sexuality, despite of all natural reactions this is their moral responsibility to pamper their child because their child has spent a tough time as well as long and hard thoughts to understanding and acknowledging his or her sexual orientation. Parents need to talk and evaluate their child. The most important factor they should consider is that their Childs’ health as they remain at high social, psychological and medical risks. Sexual and gender minority health would be counted to receive attention of their loved ones.
People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) they come from all parts of country, from all walks of life, include people of all races and ethnicities and bring diversity. They experience unique health issues and disparities. HIV/AIDs and sexually transmitted diseases are the highest threat for LGBT community. Due to social unfriendliness, discrimination, rejection by loved ones, abuse and violence LGBT community suffer high risk of depression and attempted suicide.
Dr. Rizwan, a medical officer said that “Not only male and female or gay un-protective sex can spread HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis but lesbianism also spread these chronic diseases. Oral sex and sexual behavior involving digital-vaginal with shared penetrative sex toys are the causes to spread such diseases. This is a moral responsibility of parents, friends and all those who knows the reality of sexual orientation of their beloved to prepare them for protective sex. Both partners should get tested for HIV and STD infections, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B and avoid alcohol and drugs.”
Human beings, by nature, generally hide only those characteristics of their life style about which they have uncertainty regarding their acceptance in society. History bears witnessed to the fact that there is a rapid change in society and that leads towards the “right and wrong” perspectives of issues. This theory may be applicable to this social issue. This increasing tendency of homosexuality may be accepted largely or may be rejected strictly by society in coming years. Majority of homosexuals are out of the sight. After knowing the sexual orientation of someone this is our moral responsibility to educate and provide awareness to seek the health care. We know it very well that LGBT people face barriers in accessing and seeking health care facilities. The main barrier is denial or unwillingness to visit a doctor because of discrimination or criminal penalties. Various studies and researches show that such segment of society is badly neglected by societies. This article is not in the acceptance of homosexuals but at least one can have the capacity and ability to deal such kind of psychological and social issues on the social and psychological grounds. Just like we deal the patients of mental disorder and Schizophrenia, our society can give them space and support to become healthy and constructive society member of our nation.
Let’s have a step towards productivity instead of criticism all the time!
The names in this story have been changed to protect the women’s identities out of concern for their safety.