LGBT rights in Pakistan

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LGBT Rights flag for 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 Unlike in the neighbouring country of India, this Law has not yet been repealed (or gotten rid of).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]

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.[8] 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.[9][10] 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.[11] 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.[8]

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

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."[19]

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, on the 23rd of September in 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has acted in a very bold manner[20] 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.[21][22]

Pakistani media strictly censors LGBT related news stories. In late 2013, the Government of Pakistan censored the website from being viewed.[23]

On the 9th of January in 2017, the Lahore High Court ordered the Government to include transgender people in the national census.[24]

Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017[change | change source]

On the 19th of December in 2017, a Senate committee approved the Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017, which would give transgender people full legal protection. It also provides for a clear definition of transgender and provides them relief in case of need of medical and other facilities. The Pakistani Senate debated the bill's final approval and was approved on the 7th of March in 2018, after which the bill was sent to the National Assembly of PAKISTAN, with immediate effect thereof respectively.[25]

Under the Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Act 2018, Pakistanis may choose to self-identify as male, female, or both. They may express their gender according to their own preferences, and they may have their gender identity of choice reflected on their documents, "including National Identification Cards, passports, driver's licenses and education certificates."

The Act defines "transgender person" as someone with a "mixture of male and female genital features or congenital ambiguities," a male who "undergoes genital excision or castration," or, more broadly, "any person whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the social norms and cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at the time of their birth," which allows people to self-identify as such. They are guaranteed the right to inherit assets and to run for public office.

Discrimination based on gender identity in employment and public accommodations is forbidden under the new law. The Federal Government is assigned broad obligations to provide medical and psychological assistance, small business loans and vocational training, sensitivity training for police and helping professionals, separate prison facilities, and safe houses.

The Bill unanimously passed the Pakistani Senate in early March 2018. On May 8, 2018, the National Assembly voted to pass the bill. It was signed into law when acting President Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani gave his assent on May 18, 2018.[26][27][28][29][30]

On the 9th of August in 2018, the School Education Department of the second largest province in the country, Punjab, instructed its officials to guarantee equal access to schools to transgender children as per the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018. The department told its officials to include their gender when they are being admitted to schools and give equal importance to transgender children during enrollment drives. The department instructed its officials that the instructions were binding on government as well as privately owned schools in the province. Punjab became the first province to take practical steps in implementation of the Act.[31]

On the 30th of May in 2019, Shireen Mazari the Federal Minister for Human Rights appointed Ayesha Moghul, a transgender woman to her department for the first time.[32]

LGBT rights in Kashmir[change | change source]

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

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)[33][34][35]
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)[36][37]
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)[36][37]
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".
  7. Kiss and tell By Rabab Naqvi Sunday, 25 Oct, 2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Out-on-their-luck teens turn to prostitution". The Daily Times (Pakistan).
  9. "Eunuchs warn of power outage protest dance". TopNews India.
  10. "Eunuchs warn Mepco of 'dance protest'". The Dawn Newspaper. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
  11. "Fake bills business thrives in Pindi, Islamabad cities". The Daily Times (Pakistan). Retrieved 2008-05-06.
  12. "Pakistan judge tells lesbian couple they broke the law". Pravda. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2008.
  13. "Pakistan court allows woman to change sex". Zee News. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  14. Pakistani clerics declare transgender marriages legal under Islamic law | Reuters
  15. "Clerics issue fatwa allowing transgender marriage in Pakistan". Samaa Web Desk. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  16. Toppa, Sabrina (2018-03-05). "Pakistan's transgender community takes another step forward". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  17. "Marriage, sex, and being LGBT in Pakistan". 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  18. "Pakistani LGBT community's fight for rights". Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  19. "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.
  20. News Report on the Supreme Court of Pakistan's decision 2012
  21. (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. "Pakistan's gays in dark as Muslim nation's first gay website blocked". Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  24. Pakistan counts transgender people in national census for first time
  25. Senate Standing Committee approves protection bill for transgender persons
  26. "Pakistan's transgender rights law - a 'battle half won'". Reuters. May 21, 2018.
  27. Hashim, Asad (9 May 2018). "Pakistan passes landmark transgender rights law". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  28. Guramani, Nadir (7 March 2018). "Senate unanimously approves bill empowering transgenders to determine their own identity".
  29. "Senate Standing Committee approves protection bill for transgender persons".
  30. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. "Punjab's education department enforces equal opportunity for transgender children | The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 2018-08-09. Retrieved 2018-08-11.
  32. "Pakistan human rights minister appoints first transgender employee". PinkNews – Gay news, reviews and comment from the world's most read lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans news service. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  33. "Pakistan Law". International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  34. "The 41 Commonwealth Nations where being gay can land you in prison". Pink News. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  35. "Where is it illegal to be gay?". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  36. 36.0 36.1 "Awareness about sexually transmitted infections among Hijra sex workers of Rawalpindi/Islamabad" (PDF). Pakistan Journal of Public Health. 2012.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "A Second Look at Pakistan's Third Gender". Positive Impact Magazine. Retrieved 2014-02-02.