Pakistan Hub




Being Gay in Pakistan: Where Anti-Gay Serial Killers are Applauded

BY NAILA INAYAT / GlobalPost

A recent case offers fresh cause for concern for the LGBT community.

PakistanLAHORE, Pakistan — Sitting at a coffee shop in a posh Lahore neighborhood, two young men hold a heated debate over the serial killer caught killing gay men in their city last month.

“Gay rights are human rights,” says one, arguing that gays have the right to live openly here. This is Pakistan, the other countered. “It is best to let these things stay unsaid, and underground – it's not okay in this society.” It’s a debate so fundamental that it might, at this point, sound hackneyed to a Western audience — yet in Pakistan it’s rare to hear such openness even in a private discussion.

In late April, a young man named Muhammed Ejaz confessed to killing three gay men over the past two months because he wanted to send a warning about the “evils” of homosexuality.

The 28-year-old paramedic from Lahore said he had lured his victims through a gay social networking site manjam.com and killed them following a sexual encounter in their own homes.

Ejaz, a father of two, said his hatred against gays springs from his being abused by an older man when he was 10.

“I have hated them ever since that happened to me," he said in an interview from his prison cell aired on Samaa TV. "By killing these men, I wanted to warn them to stay away from this evil of homosexuality.”

In Pakistan, where homosexuality is illegal, these killings have set off panic in the already closeted gay community.

"I deactivated my account initially after the news of the killing broke on social media because I was scared that the killer Ejaz will be portrayed as a hero locally," says 31-year-old Amir Shah from Lahore, who belongs to the popular manjam.com site. "You’ll find many people who would buy into his philosophy that homosexuality is an evil.”

Gay people in Pakistan can’t go to gay clubs: They don’t exist. Many say the internet was the best thing that ever happened to the community — until now.

“In the absence of any type of gay hangouts, we only rely on the dating sites, mobiles apps and groups to make friends but with this incident even that has become unsafe,” said Shah.

Still, in this conservative, Muslim country where any kind of sex outside marriage is taboo, gay partners in some cases receive less scrutiny than unmarried heterosexual couples.

“I have never had any problems finding a partner for myself or dating openly because I guess when two boys are together and they draw less attention to themselves than the boy-and-girl couple," says 29-year-old Ahmed Butt from Chakwal, near Lahore. "I don’t think it is hard to be gay in Pakistan, at least it works for me.”

Still, Butt, who is also an active moderator on onlylads.com, another gay social site, says the gay community feels increasingly threatened because these hate-crimes are generally applauded by the society.

“We then worry that this incident will encourage others from the society — that they would also want to kill the ‘evil’ within us,” he says.  

The sensational interview of the killer by Samaa TV portrayed him as the epitome of righteousness, a view shared widely on the street.

“I stand with Ejaz and the courage he has showed to wipe these devils off from our holy land — Islam doesn’t approve of homosexuality so who are we to let these people live among us,” says Mohmmad Naeem 35-year-old roadside vendor in Lahore.

Noor Ata, a 22-year-old student of law in Karachi agrees.

“We can’t blame the killer for his acts, it is illegal to indulge in any homosexual activity and the government has failed to stop such obscenity," he said. "As a result, pious people like Ejaz are forced eliminate evil themselves.” 

Persecution is a constant threat to the gay community, members say, even as all but the most egregious incidents remain unreported or out of the spotlight.

In 2003, three Pakistani men were arrested in Lahore for engaging in homosexual acts after one of their relatives turned them in following a private party.

Another incident in 2005 involved the nuptial ritual of a gay couple, 42-year-old Liaqat Ali and Markeen a 16-year-old Afghan refugee in the country. The pair had conducted a traditional tribal ceremony — gay marriage is not recognized in Pakistan, and this pair was reportedly the first to even hold a ceremony. A tribal council in their region of Khyber Pakhtunkwa in north Pakistan told the couple to leave the area in the north or face death because they had broken religious and tribal values.

Qari Hafiz-ur-Rehman, a 60-year-old cleric based in Kahuta, Punjab in an open statement in December 2007 said, “Homosexuals must be killed — it’s the only way to stop them spreading. It should be by beheading or stoning, which the general public can do.”

And in 2009, the 60-year-old watchman Muhammad Hashim Jokhio was pulled from his home and beaten to death with clubs and rods by a village mob in south Pakistan. According to police, Jokhio was ostracized by fellow villagers for his sexual preferences, and therefore, he lived apart from his family — not the norm in Pakistan.

Sociologists note the most recent serial killer case has highlighted another troubling aspect of the public discussion of homosexuality, and which contributes to the animosity towards the gay community.

“For me it is problematic how (the alleged killer) has confused child abuse with homosexuality,” says Asma Imran, an Islamabad-based sociologist.“These are two totally different things." Sexual abuse of children, however, is also a taboo topic in Pakistan.

Gay Pakistanis say they are pessimistic over an improvement in attitude toward their community.

"Yes, there will always be some in our society who’ll consider homosexuality a disease and would not accept that it’s a matter of orientation," says Raheel, 35, from Faisalabad, near Lahore. "Till that acceptance comes, we will see many like Ejaz who will kill gays.”

Others say the community must stand up for themselves.

“We can’t cease to live our lives for ourselves and instead live for the society," says 23-year-old Afzal Khan from Lahore. "I’m not scared at all, and I can’t sit and wait for a psychotic to kill me.”


Pakistani Serial Killer of Gay Men Claimed He Was Stopping The Spread Of Evil

A confessed serial killer has been jailed in Pakistan.

Muhammed Ejaz killed three men, all of them gay, because "they were spreading evil in society and I had to stop it."

Ejaz seems to have committed the murders by luring the men into an encounter, having sex, sedating them, and then breaking their necks, actions he now regrets, saying, "My way was wrong." He still justified his behavior and hatred by claiming, "They are spreading evil and transmitting diseases. They cannot control themselves." His hatred for homosexuals appears to stem from severe internalized homophobia and self-hatred, traumas that were induced at the age of 10 when he was sexually abused by an older boy.

The NYT adds:

He is expected to face full charges in the coming days.

Speculation about the murders had been coursing through gay circles in Lahore since mid-March, when the first killing took place. “People are quite frightened,” said one gay man, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the law against homosexuality. “They feel both violated and exposed.”

Another man said there was speculation that the victims had been picked up on Grindr, another popular social networking website. “Some of my friends deleted their profiles because they were worried,” he said.

Mr. Ejaz denied police claims that he had had sex with his victims before killing them, claiming instead that sexual abuse he had suffered as a teenager had driven him to act.

There is now concern among the very closeted gay community of Pakistan that Ejaz's actions will be praised by conservative Muslims in the region, and an even greater fear that someone might be inspired to continue his murders.


Pakistan LGBT Website Dodges Government Censors

Pakistan

Pakistan's largest website devoted to the LGBT community evaded government censors who tried to block it this week, News24 reports:

"No one can squeeze space for us," said Fakhir, who declined to give his full name. "We are ready for a long cyber battle." QueerPk was launched in July to provide social networking opportunities for Pakistani's marginalized LGBT community, he said.

When the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked the site this week, QueerPk's technical team diverted all traffic to the same content on another domain, humjins.com, within minutes.

YouTube has been banned in the country for more than a year after it showed a website ruled offensive to the Prophet Mohammed.


Pakistan: 'A Gay Man's Paradise'?

Gay couplePakistan may not seem like the most gay-friendly place on Earth. Not even close, since its anti-gay laws are technically more restrictive than Russia's (Russia's laws don't actually criminalize gay sex, Pakistan's do). However, with the advent of the internet, more and more members of Pakistan's underground gay community have managed to find each other and create an underground community. Thanks to a recent article released by BBC News Magazine, we now have a glimpse into that community. As it turns out, gay men in Pakistan are a lot more sexually active than some might expect. 

The article's title sums up the situation pretty succinctly: "Gay Pakistan: Where sex is available and relationships are difficult". Precisely how easy is gay sex to come by? Just ask "Danyaal", a businessman from the wealthy city of Karachi. He tells BBC that "if you want sex...it's a gay man's paradise." Danyaal is part of the city's underground gay party scene, where invite-only parties host sometimes hundreds of gay men in a private venue where they can be open about their sexuality. That doesn't mean that gay men in Karachi only get together in private setting, though. Ironically, one of the city's best gay cruising spots is one of its busiest shrines, the Abdullah Shah-Ghazi shrine:

"Every Thursday evening, as the sun sets, men from across the city gather there. A tightly packed circle is formed and those in the centre of the circle are groped by those on the periphery. To outsiders it looks like a writhing mass of men huddling around one another. Some even describe it as a 'mysterious religious ceremony'. For participants, it's anonymous group sex. This kind of behaviour is, of course, not condoned by Pakistan's religious authorities."

...Of course. Gay sex is also readily available via a malchi walah, or a "masseuse" who offers certain "extras" for a small additional fee (the equivalent of approximately $7.80 USD). These masseuses don't usually have to worry about local authorities, either, since many of them are loyal clients. "We get important people - police, army officers and ministers too," says one masseuse called "Ahmed". Ahmed even has two wives, who know about his unusual career choice and are fine with it.  "I know he has sex. No problem," said one wife. "If he doesn't work how will the kids eat? I get angry when people call them names. People are stuck in their ways."

Gay pakistanOne researcher, Qasim Iqbal, explained the possible origins of Pakistan's casual male-on-male sex culture:

"In Pakistan men are discouraged from having girlfriends and so often, their first sexual experiences will be with male friends or cousins. This is often seen as a part of growing up and it can be overlooked by families - it's the idea that 'boys will be boys'. Sex between men will be overlooked as long as no-one feels that tradition or religion are being challenged. At the end of it all, everyone gets married to a member of the opposite sex and nothing is spoken about."

Just like Iqbal says, while gay men in Pakistan have no trouble soliciting sex from other men, relationships are much harder to come by. More often than not, they will end up marrying a member of the opposite sex for convenience purposes while continuing to sleep with men on the side. Iqbal says that:

"Gay men [in Pakistan] will make every effort to stop any investment in a same-sex relationship because they know that one day they will have to get married to a woman."

Thus, in Pakistan's patriarchal society, long term man-on-man relationships are exceedingly rare. In the case of gay couple "Ali" and "Akbar", they were allowed to continue because Ali's family was run by a matriarch instead. Akbar told BBC:

"His grandmother was the head of the house so I knew that winning her over would mean everything else would fall into place. I took the time to talk to her and convince her that I was a good person. That was first and foremost. It wasn't about 'coming out' in a formal sense. It's more important to convince Ali's family that I'm a good human being.

"She once gave me a hand-embroidered decorative cloth that she had made as a teenager. She said she was giving it to me because she knew I 'take care of things'. It was a kind gesture and a very personal kind of acceptance."

GayMuslimsExist1-e1281529089994-360x270Unfortunately, it's much more difficult for lesbians, since any sort of outward expression of sexuality by women, gay or stright, is generally frowned upon. That's why lesbians "Beena" and "Fatima" have to keep their relationship rather discreet. Beena is still in the closet while Fatima contributes to an invite-only online support group for other gay Pakistanis online. Beena says that the two of them are looking to find a gay couple with which to enter into a marriage of convenience:

"I think we'll have a marriage of convenience. I know some gay guys and maybe we'll do a deal so we put in money together and they have one portion of the house and we'll have another portion. We may as well do that."

And as for the progress of LGBT rights in their home country? Beena has noticed a correlation between LGBT and women's rights in other nations. Unfortunately, that likely means that full equality will not come during their lifetime should they choose to stay in Pakistan:

"Gay rights in America came after women had basic rights. You don't see that in Pakistan. You are not allowed a difference of opinion here. My father is a gentleman but I wouldn't put it past him to put a bullet through my head. I'm all for being 'true to myself' but I don't want to die young. I think it's selfish for me to come out and campaign for gay rights now. It's selfish to the women in my family who are fighting for education and the right to marry the man of their dreams, or not to marry at all."


New Website Helps Gay Pakistanis Find Support, Navigate Anti-Gay Laws


Queer Pakistan

 

With so much controversy surrounding Russia at present, it's easy to forget that cerain other countries have even stricter anti-gay laws and policies in place. One such country is Pakistan, where laws forbid homosexual acts as well as "propaganda", and carry penalties ranging from 2 years to life in prison, or even death in some other cases. 

Queer Pakistan seeks to help improve the country's harshly anti-gay climate. It seeks to create a safe haven online for members of the underground Pakistani LGBT community, as well as provide informational tools and resources for those in and out of the community. It also seeks to spread information about sexually transmitted diseases, which is another taboo in the highly-conservative country. Its slogan declares: "Don't hate us, know usI" 

Pakistan-is-a-strange-country-1024x640Pakistan is also known for its strict censorship laws. Since the origin of the site remains unknown, it is not yet apparent if the Pakistani government has taken measures to block the site or shut it down, or if it even can. Such efforts may prove counter-intuitive, though, since Pink News reports that Pakistan leads the world in online gay porn searches. Thus, it may actually be in the country's best interest to encourage traffic to this site, since it provides actual substantive information. 

Nevertheless, this site serves as just another example of the web has allowed members of underground LGBT movements to communicate and provide support for each other


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