LGBT rights in Pakistan

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LGBT Rights Pride flag of Pakistan.
LGBT flag map of Pakistan.

There are few to no LGBT rights in Pakistan. Since 6th of October in 1860, it has been illegal to participate in homosexual acts (to have sexual contact with a person of the same gender). Unlike in the neighbouring country of India, this Section 377 of the British Indian penal code (Law) has not yet been repealed (or gotten rid of). Homosexuality is also thought of as a taboo vice in Pakistan, Laws are harsh yet go unopposed in most cases. If individual orientation and acceptance isn’t enough, young boys in some cases are forced to delve into sexual activities with older predatory men. The major religions in Pakistan do not approve of homosexuality. Because of this, many people in the country are against homosexuality and other forms of alternative sexual orientation. Nevertheless, the LGBT community is still able to socialize, organize, date, and even live together as couples, if done mostly in secret.[1]

Pakistan is officially an Islamic Republic. However, in reality, Pakistan is largely secular (non-religious). It mainly has Anglo-Saxon laws which were inherited from the British. More and more, there are trends (or patterns) of liberalization (becoming more liberal) in the country. Globalization and social tolerance are also increasing. Because of this, public gay parties have been taking place in the country, and these parties have been thriving for a number of years.[2]

The Constitution of Pakistan does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity. There are certain parts in the Constitution that may affect the rights of LGBT Pakistani citizens. In 2018, Parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act which established broad protections for transgender people. Earlier, in a historic 2009 ruling, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in favour of civil rights for transgender citizens, and further court rulings upheld and increased these rights. Pakistan does not have civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. Neither same-sex marriages nor civil unions are permitted under current law and are scarcely ever brought up in the political discourse. In addition, there is a growing number of individuals—especially those born to parents who have been educated in the developed world, who are usually University graduates and have some sort of understanding about evolution and sexuality—who are Coming out to their friends and introducing them to their same-sex partner.[3]

Transsexualism and Intersexuality[change | change source]

A thriving community of hijras and transsexual people cross-dressed as females protest in Islamabad.

Most South Asian nations have a concept, or idea, called "hijra", or third gender. While the term is commonly used in South Asia, it is considered derogatory in Urdu and the term khawaja sara (خواجہ سرا‎) is used instead.[4][5] They are sometimes referred to as Transgender, Intersex or Eunuchs in English language publications.[6] People who belong to prevails the third gender are thought of as not being either man or woman. Pakistan is no different. In the country, there is a vibrant culture of hijras. They are sometimes called transsexuals in English writings.[7] Like transgender people in many countries, hijras are sometimes ridiculed (made fun of), abused, and treated violently.[6] In Punjabi, there are referred to as khusra (ਖੁਸਰਾ/خسرہ), and in Sindhi as khadra (کدڙا). However, they are also accepted, to a point. This is because of the position they held in precolonial Desi society. For example, they are welcome at weddings, where they will dance as entertainment for the men, and are also welcome among the women.[6] As most of Pakistan's official government and business documents are in English, the term "third gender" has been chosen to represent individuals (either male or female, neither, and/or both) that identify themselves as, transsexual, transgender person, cross-dresser (Zenana in Urdu), transvestite, and Eunuchs (Narnbans in Urdu).[8][9]

Hijras are usually tolerated in Pakistani society. They are thought of as blessed in the Pakistani culture. Most hijras are thought to be cultural descendants (or relatives) of court eunuchs from the Mughal era.[10] Hijras are thought to be born with Genital dysphoria. People sometimes feel afraid that the hijras might curse them so that they become the same way.[11][12] Because of this, people listen to the hijras' needs, give them alms (or charity), and invite them to events and special occasions, like the birth of a child, a child's circumcision, or weddings.[13] Hijra communities live a very secretive life. Because of this, many people see the hijras as mysterious.

In 2004, it was reported that Lahore alone has 10,000 active transvestites.[10]

People have started accepting acts of Sex reassignment surgery to change their sex as a norm either compelled by Gender dysphoria. There are situations where such cases have come into the limelight.[14] A 2008 ruling at Pakistan's Lahore High Court gave permission to Naureen, 28, to have a sex change operation, although the decision was applicable only towards people suffering from gender dysphoria.[15]

On the 18th of June in 2016 a small clerical body in Lahore know as Tanzeem Ittehad-I-Ummat declared Transgender marriages legal under Islamic law.[16] These clerics are affiliated to the Pakistan-based organization issued a Fatwa on Pakistani transgender people where a trans woman (born male) with "visible signs of being a woman" is allowed to marry a man, and a trans man (born female) with "visible signs of being a man" is allowed to marry a woman. Pakistani transsexuals can also change their gender. Muslim ritual funerals also apply. Depriving transgender people of their inheritance, humiliating, insulting or teasing them were also declared Haraam.[17] Although there are no Fatāwās by a Mufti for it or against the ("Zenanas") or Eunuchs and Hermaphrodites within the country, that remains a debatable issue for the existing various sexual minority diverse communities within Pakistan respectively.

On the 5th of February in 2018, a Senate committee determined that transgender people could inherit property without being required to have their gender decided by a medical board.[18] Some hijras in Pakistan use hormones and silicone to bring focus on their feminine characteristics; however, this is usually done in terrible medical conditions without proper equipment and supervision, as expensive Sex change surgeries in Pakistan are not done mostly due to lack of education on the topic and the taboos of society.[19]

Even though the Pakistani Government recognizes a third gender on ID cards, many people from the LGBT community are hesitant to apply for it as they will not be allowed to enter the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia as a transgender person.[20]

LGBT Pakistani history[change | change source]

Despite the British Raj imposition, Pakistan was still a very much an open society. Gay Pakistanis have had a much better experience in Pakistan than they did in London or elsewhere. But, all of that changed in the 1980s, under the sixth President of Pakistan, His government took the law to lifetime imprisonment, and even death in certain areas under Sharia law. More and more Wahhabi-style religious schools or madrasas were opened in the country, generally with money from the Middle East as well as teachers educated in that region.

However, 147 years after the British had brought Sodomy Laws to the entire region under their collective domain, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has noted in 2005 that gay life in Pakistan is still “less inhibited than in the west.” This is because the culture is much stronger than laws imposed by foreign powers and greedy local politicians. There have been a lot of changes, sometimes they are good and sometimes bad, but changes are constant companion to gay Pakistani life in the country. At the moment, one of the mysteries is that people deny the history of gay life in Pakistan. While in Pakistan speaking to the National Public Radio, Pakistani-American scholar Taymiya R. Zaman, who happens to be an expert in Islamic History, said that “You can’t look at something that already existed – and there is a shrine devoted to it – and now say it was unacceptable.” In March 2012 at the Human Rights Council, Hina Jilani, who was then also Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General said, "it was very important to emphasize that a serious obstacle was the persistent denial of protection for people from violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That denial and rejection was not prudent for any Government that claimed commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. It was not convincing when culture and religion were used as a shield and an excuse for failure to protect. There was no notion of responsibility that allowed duty bearers to selectively hold out on protection."[21]

Pre-Independent Colonial era (1857-1947)[change | change source]

The 18th century British colonists, the self-righteous Anglican males of the self-assessed superior civilisation, upon arrival in the Mughal-Muslim Indian subcontinent, were repulsed by the sight of Hijras (transgenders) and baffled over why they were accorded so much respect in royal courts and other spheres of life. After deposing the Mughals, and in discharging the white man’s burden of civilising the inferior races, the British colonists enacted the so-called Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 which was introduced on the 12th of October in 1871; to declare what they called Eunuchs (transgenders) a so-called criminal tribe (among many other Indian tribes) on the theory that certain tribes were genetically criminal and must be placed under state surveillance. By invoking the power of criminal law and associated prisons and penalties, the British colonists attacked the dignity of transgender community, degrading them in social echelons, and eventually forcing them to adopt begging, prostitution, and other questionable professions. Turning a respected community into a legally certified criminal tribe was an egregious blunder of the British colonialism (and it is hoped that Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London, will begin to restore the full rights of transgenders at least in London municipality).

After the so-called 1871 Criminal Tribes Act, a vicious cycle of persecution against transgenders of degradation began in the British India. Degraded to criminal tribe with genetic flaws, transgenders lost their royal status and gradually were excluded from all respectable social circles. Such is the power of the master that slaves and servants fashion their own hierarchies of inferiority among themselves. All designated criminal tribes under the 1871 Act suffered social degradation and persecution but transgenders were the hardest hit. In order to survive, some transgenders took to dancing performed at the birth of a new child in the community, collecting Wadhais (tips). Some developed the joyous art of clapping and dancing. Some developed the art of lampooning and were invited to the wedding feasts of the well-to-do to make fun of the groom, the guests, and even the politicians. They played the same role of amusing private gatherings as do late-night TV comedians in the United States. Some transgenders took to begging, some to prostitution, and some to criminality, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the so-called 1871 Criminal Tribes Act. After formal dissolution of the former British Empire; Independent states of modern Republic of India and Pakistan came into being respectively, thus the Criminal Tribes Act was repealed with respect to transgenders. However, the damage done to transgenders was irreparable. Transgenders lost social respect and various stereotypes have been built to humiliate and discount the transgender community. A pejorative word Khusra is in active currency to denigrate the personality of transgenders. Friends might tease a feminine-looking friend as a Khusra. An incompetent politician is called a Khusra. In both modern India and Pakistan, the word Khusra is associated with impotence, incompetence, and powerlessness. In Pakistan, the people have forgotten the spiritual role that the transgenders played in Islam. Transgenders are ridiculed and insulted. Popular TV shows, such as Khabarnaak and Khabardaar, make cruel jokes against transgender community. One of these shows is headed by a lawyer licensed to practice before the high courts of Pakistan.

LGBT politics[change | change source]

Asia
Same-sex sexual activity legal
  Same-sex marriage
  Foreign same-sex marriages recognized1
  Other type of partnership (or unregistered cohabitation)
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Restrictions on freedom of expression
Same-sex sexual activity illegal
  Not Enforced or unclear
  Penalty
  Life in prison
  Death penalty

A number of the more liberal, secular parties in Pakistan tend to agree in principle to granting rights to various LGBT communities in the country, but are afraid to act too openly or quickly due to fear of extremist religious groups such as the Taliban who are against any such rights.

Time and again, various such parties and leaders have said that Pakistan needs to be more open, in public, about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Yet, the sense persists that no public organization, club, or society would be allowed to endorse (or officially support) LGBT human rights, or even act as a social network for LGBT people, in the Islamic State. Only the Pakistan Greens has publicly expressed support for their LGBT rights for its citizens in general and abroad (Overseas Pakistanis) and has called for greater public openness and awareness about Sexual orientations and gender identity issues. Globally, multiple countries Legally recognise non-binary or third gender classifications and have already introduced X gender passports. In 2019 Canada introduced gender-neutral passports with an X category. While Pakistan has acknowledged a third gender to some degree since 2009, Apex Court Ruling Ordered that the NADRA issue National Identity Cards to members of the T Community showing their distinct gender.

"It's the first time in the 62-year history of Pakistan that such steps are being taken for our welfare", Almas Bobby, a Khawaja Sara association's president, said to Reuters, "It's a major step towards giving us respect and identity in society. We are slowly getting respect in society. Now people recognize that we are also human beings."

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has officially recognised a third gender category for Pakistani passports in December 2018. Pakistan now allows transgender, intersex, and hijra individuals to obtain documents that match their gender identity, whether male, female, or third gender.

Restoring the Dignity of Transgenders[change | change source]

World map of nonbinary gender recognition

In 2009, the Pakistan Supreme Court, delivered a seminal ruling, recognizing the dignity of transgenders and declaring them the third gender under the equal protection clause of the Pakistani Constitution. Article 25 states that “There Shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex.” The Supreme Court noted that transgender persons have been neglected “On account of gender disorder in their bodies.” They have been denied the inheritance rights as they were neither sons nor daughters who inherit under Islamic law. Sometimes, families disinherit transgender children. To remedy discrimination against transgenders, the Court ordered provincial and federal governments to protect transgenders’ gender identification, right to inherit property, right to vote, right to education, and right to employment. This Laws shall now include the recognition of trans identity in legal documents such as passports, ID cards, and driver licenses, and prohibiting discrimination in employment, schools, work-place, public transit, healthcare… etc, as well as the right for inheritance in accordance to their chosen gender. Furthermore, the bill obligates the government to build protection centres and safe houses be built for the transgender community.

Only now, recently, on the 23rd of September in 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has acted in a very bold manner[22] and defied the religious right, by granting for the first time, three basic rights to transsexuals i.e.

(a) the right to be recognised as a 'Third sex or gender'

(b) the right to vote as Pakistani citizens as transsexuals and

(c) granted the fixation of job quotas in the public/government sector, for transsexual people.

These are all landmark decisions by the apex court and hopefully the situation for LGBT rights will improve more in future. The 'Third gender' was officially protected from discrimination by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2010. Surprisingly, 60% of Pakistanis would have no concerns about having a gay or lesbian neighbour, and 32% of Pakistani people support gay marriage.[23][24]

Pakistani media strictly censors LGBT related news stories. In late 2013, the Government of Pakistan censored the website Queerpk.com from being viewed.[25]

On the 9th of January in 2017, the Lahore High Court ordered the Government to include transgender people in the national census.[26] Despite this ground-breaking ruling in a conservative Islamic country, which must be welcome and which carries instructional values for the United States where transgenders are still fighting for equal dignity, there are some troubling aspects of the Court ruling. The Pakistan Supreme Court compares transgender persons with “disabled persons“ and articulates their gender status as “gender disorder.” There is no need for courts to engage in fruitless parallels nor does it advance the rights of transgenders when a high court labels transgender as gender disorder. Before the British invasion, Pre-Pakistanians considered gender ambiguity and transgender Identity a norm, anti LGBT+ laws were implemented by the British to co-ordinate with theirs in England. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious minorities did not feel passionate hatred towards people with LGBT identity according to historical records. In many ways, the creation of laws which support the LGBT community can be regarded as an act of process of Decolonization in itself respectively, to restore their former glorious rightful dignified traditional heritage as Pakistanis. While Pakistan now has acknowledged a third gender to some degree since 2010, the Supreme Court of Pakistan officially recognised a third gender category for Pakistani passports in December 2018. Pakistan now allows transgender, intersex, and hijra individuals to obtain documents that match their gender identity, whether male, female, or third gender respectively. On the 29th of December in 2018, Pakistan's first trans pride parade was held in Lahore to celebrate the landmark Transgender rights law passed earlier during that year.

In 2018, Nisha Rao attained her law degree from Karachi's Sindh Muslim Law College and became Pakistan's first transgender lawyer. [27]

In early 2019 The word "TRANSGENDER" translated as مُتَجَنَّس / Mutajannis for the first time in the Urdu language by the Lahore-Pakistan based Organization HOPE - Have Only Positive Expectations. Earlier than this there was no translation exists which covers the whole Transgender spectrum includes Transgender Women (trans women /MTF), Transgender Men (trans man / FTM), Khaja Sira, and gender expression.

In 2020, a transgender woman named Gul Panra was shot dead in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. This is the latest case of attacked on the LGBT community in the county. Along with her, a friend of Gul's were also injured, but escaped death. Gul was a Pashto singer in her professional life. Since 2015, it is reported that 68 transgender people were murdered in Pakistan. However, a total of 479 transgender people were attacked since 2018 in the Pakistani provence of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone. But, these figures may not include the actual figure, as recording of anti-trans violence is poor.[28]

LGBT rights in Kashmir (PAK)[change | change source]

World map of consent-based and coercion-based sexual violence legislation, and whether exemptions for marital rape (spousal rape) exist or not.

Homosexuality is still illegal in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan was one of the 67 signatory nations opposing the UN declaration on Sexual orientation and Gender Identity, which failed to pass.

In Kashmir same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships are not recognised.

There are no legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Summary table[change | change source]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: fine or 2 to less than 10 years of imprisonment; varies by region and is rarely enforced: Public safety; Vigilante executions, beatings and torture are also known to be tolerated in Pakistani Society and Mob justice can also be an common occurrence unfortunately for these minority communities).[29][30][31]
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment for Pakistani gays, lesbians, and bisexuals Yes (Since 2018; for Gender Identity Only)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only for Transgender or Transexual persons Yes (known as Khuwaja Sira, formerly hijra, or Third Gender)[9][32]
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals Yes (Since 2018; for Gender Identity Only)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services for Yes (known as Khuwaja Sira, formerly hijra, or Third Gender)[9][32]
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2018; for Gender Identity Only)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays allowed to serve in the Military No
Third gender Recognised Yes (Since 2010)
Right to change Legal Gender Yes (Since 2010)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Gays in Pakistan Move Cautiously to Gain Acceptance". The New York Times. 3 November 2012.
  2. Walsh, Declan (2006-03-14). "Pakistani society looks other way as gay men party". London: The Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
  3. "Gay Pakistanis, Still in Shadows, Seek Acceptance". The New York Times. 3 November 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  4. Beck, Charity. "A Second Look at Pakistan's Third Gender". Positive Impact: Worldwide Movement Encouraging Positive Solutions for Life. Positive Impact Magazine. Archived from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  5. Khan, Faris A. (2016). "Khwaja Sira Activism: The Politics of Gender Ambiguity in Pakistan". TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. 3: 158–164. doi:10.1215/23289252-3334331.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Kiss and tell By Rabab Naqvi, 25 October 2009". Archived from the original on 10 January 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
  7. "Kiss and tell By Rabab Naqvi Sunday, 25 Oct, 2009". Archived from the original on 2010-01-10. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
  8. Burke, Jason (2013). "Pakistan's once-ridiculed transgender community fight elections for first time". The Guardian.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Abdullah, M; Basharat, Zeeshan (2012). "Awareness about sexually transmitted infections among Hijra sex workers of Rawalpindi/Islamabad". Pakistan Journal of Public Health. 2: 40–45. Retrieved May 16, 2021. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "test.hsa.edu.pk" defined multiple times with different content
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  15. "Pakistan court allows woman to change sex". Zee News. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  16. Pakistani clerics declare transgender marriages legal under Islamic law | Reuters
  17. "Clerics issue fatwa allowing transgender marriage in Pakistan". Samaa Web Desk. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  18. Toppa, Sabrina (2018-03-05). "Pakistan's transgender community takes another step forward". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  19. "Marriage, sex, and being LGBT in Pakistan". 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  20. "Pakistani LGBT community's fight for rights". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  21. "Human Rights Council holds panel discussion on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity". UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  22. News Report on the Supreme Court of Pakistan's decision 2012
  23. (PDF) http://ilga.org/downloads/07_THE_ILGA_RIWI_2016_GLOBAL_ATTITUDES_SURVEY_ON_LGBTI_PEOPLE.pdf. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. (PDF) http://old.ilga.org/documents/RIWI_ILGA_Report_Marriage.pdf. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. "Pakistan's gays in dark as Muslim nation's first gay website blocked". CNN.com. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  26. Pakistan counts transgender people in national census for first time
  27. "From streets to courts, Pakistan's first transgender lawyer Nisha Rao". MM News TV. 2020-10-27. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  28. "Transgender woman Gul Panra shot dead, friend wounded in Peshawar". www.thenews.com.pk. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  29. "Pakistan Law". International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  30. "The 41 Commonwealth Nations where being gay can land you in prison". Pink News. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  31. "Where is it illegal to be gay?". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  32. 32.0 32.1 "A Second Look at Pakistan's Third Gender". Positive Impact Magazine. Archived from the original on 2014-01-08. Retrieved 2014-02-02.