LGBT rights in Pakistan

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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 Unlike in the neighboring country of India, this Law has not yet been repealed (or gotten rid of). Homosexuality is also thought of as a taboo vice in Pakistan. 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.

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.[1]

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.

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. 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.[2] Like transgender people in many countries, hijras are sometimes ridiculed (made fun of), abused, and treated violently.[2] 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.[2]

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.[3] Hijras are thought to be born with Gential dysphoria. People sometimes feel afraid that the hijras might curse them so that they become the same way.[4][5] 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.[6] 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.[3]

In June 2016 a small clerical body in Lahore know as Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat declared Transgender marriages legal under Islamic law. [7]

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, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was a close ally of Arabian countries. His government took the law to lifetime imprisonment, and even death in certain areas under Sharia law. More and more Wahabbi-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."[8]

LGBT politics[change | change source]

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.

Only now, recently, in 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has acted in a very bold manner[9] 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.[10] [11]

LGBT rights in Kashmir[change | change source]

Asia
Same-sex sexual activity legal      Other type of partnership (or unregistered cohabitation)      Foreign same-sex marriages recognized1      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

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)[12][13][14]
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only for Transgender or Transexual persons Yes (known as Khuwaja Sira, formerly hijra, or Third Gender)[15][16]
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services for Yes (known as Khuwaja Sira, formerly hijra, or Third Gender)[15][16]
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays allowed to serve in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (since 2010)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No

Related[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Walsh, Declan (2006-03-14). "Pakistani society looks other way as gay men party". London: The Guardian Newspaper. http://www.guardian.co.uk/gayrights/story/0,,1730228,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kiss and tell By Rabab Naqvi Sunday, 25 Oct, 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Out-on-their-luck teens turn to prostitution". The Daily Times (Pakistan). http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_22-4-2004_pg7_22.
  4. "Eunuchs warn of power outage protest dance". TopNews India. http://www.topnews.in/eunuchs-warn-power-outage-protest-dance-232318.
  5. "Eunuchs warn Mepco of ‘dance protest’". The Dawn Newspaper. http://www.dawn.com/2008/04/08/nat38.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
  6. "Fake bills business thrives in Pindi, Islamabad cities". The Daily Times (Pakistan). http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007\11\14\story_14-11-2007_pg11_1. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
  7. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-transgender-idUSKCN0ZD1IZ
  8. "Human Rights Council holds panel discussion on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity". UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11920&LangID=E. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  9. News Report on the Supreme Court of Pakistan's decision 2012
  10. . http://ilga.org/downloads/07_THE_ILGA_RIWI_2016_GLOBAL_ATTITUDES_SURVEY_ON_LGBTI_PEOPLE.pdf.
  11. . http://old.ilga.org/documents/RIWI_ILGA_Report_Marriage.pdf.
  12. "Pakistan Law". International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. http://ilga.org/ilga/en/countries/PAKISTAN/Law. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  13. "The 41 Commonwealth Nations where being gay can land you in prison". Pink News. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/20/the-41-commonwealth-nations-where-it-is-illegal-to-be-gay/. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  14. "Where is it illegal to be gay?". BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25927595. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Awareness about sexually transmitted infections among Hijra sex workers of Rawalpindi/Islamabad". Pakistan Journal of Public Health. 2012. http://test.hsa.edu.pk/journal/issue-march2012vol2no1/Abdullah%20MA.OA.pdf.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "A Second Look at Pakistan’s Third Gender". Positive Impact Magazine. http://positiveimpactmagazine.com/a-second-look-at-pakistans-third-gender/. Retrieved 2014-02-02.