By Zeeba T Hashmi
May 01, 2015
To even talk about it here is taboo and to profess to it is a sure call for victimisation. This area has never been studied academically here nor has there been any data collected in this regard. The only source of information on it is through personal anecdotes and confessions, majorly from male prostitutes. This creates a problem in understanding the gaps homosexuals feel in living their lives securely in society and the perception about them on humanistic grounds. Religion abhors homosexuality. Society finds it unforgivable to consider homosexuals as having the right to live freely and securely. To add insult to injury, successful attempts have been made to demoralise and dehumanise homosexuals. There lies the contention of their right to dignity being heavily compromised by right wing conservatives and the radical elements in society that punish them for their sexual orientation, which they consider as being unnatural.
Before one delves further into the subject of the criminalisation of homosexuality, it is first important to understand what homosexuality is. In common terms, it is understood as the orientation of an individual to feel sexually attracted to another person of the same gender. It is argued that same sex orientation is inbred and naturally occurring while others assert that it is acquired and is unnatural. Whatever the case may be, there is no denying the fact that homosexuals exist in Pakistan and they are not allowed dignity and freedom to follow their lifestyle openly here.
Homophobia is a common phenomenon in Pakistan. The person speaking in defence of homosexuals is the odd one out and is even vulnerable to the dangers of a criminal backlash. The reason for this is the narrow view people hold about diverse sexual orientations despite the fact that homosexuality is not something new in Pakistan. Prevalent homophobia causes much distress and psychiatric problems in our closet gay community. It is unfair to lay the blame on homosexuals for their orientation because, in their minds, they do not consider themselves to be of the gender they were born with. This is double jeopardy for them: cursed by society and by their religion they find themselves helpless in finding dignity. This is also the reason why they suffer from emotional conflicts, the sense of guilt they suffer from. Families are hardly ever around to support them and refuse to accept that their children are born with a different orientation. There have also been Fatwas issued by several clerics against homosexuals. There have been incidents of how gays have been brutally murdered with clubs and stones for their sexual preference.
Last year, a man named Ejaz Muhammed confessed to the crime of killing three men whom he said were gays. His motive was to send a warning to homosexuals for the ‘evil’ they were spreading in society and society at large commended the serial killer who murdered his victims in cold blood. What got this man to hate homosexuals was his own personal experience of being sexually abused by a male adult when he was 10 years old. What he seemed to have blurred out was the difference between sexual abuse and consensual sex between two adult individuals. This is an important case to mention as it demonstrates how a lack of understanding of consensual sex can lead to malice against those with different orientations. What is found to be ironic is that there is not a single protest against child sexual abuse and rape, which are often witnessed in ‘religious’ seminaries and places where adults are in control of children whilst, in comparison, two consenting adults are conveniently dehumanised. There is also another avenue to explore further the reason why sexual abuse of children and adolescents is on the rise. This is so because, in a closed society that does not acknowledge homosexuality as normal, cases of exploitation of defenceless children who have no concept about sexuality are prevalent, which can indirectly be linked to sexual frustrations here.
In Pakistan, homosexuality can be implied as a criminal act under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Section 377 of the PPC states imprisonment of up to 10 years for carnal intercourse against the “order of nature”. Nature here is a contested terminology as scientific determinants have to be brought in here to consider same-sex orientation as an unnatural order, which, due to the narrow prism of the religiously indoctrinated mindset, has never been considered here. Thus, there is very limited knowledge on the subject in Pakistan. Because of this lack of understanding and the extent to which religion dictates societal morality, there appears to be little hope left for homosexuals to demand their basic rights. Quite recently, the US consulate hosted an event for the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) group in Pakistan, which became the subject of trenchant criticism in the media and the dangerous exposé of its members has caused them to receive death threats. As a result, LGBT members had to go into hiding for fear of their lives.
The punishing attitude of society towards homosexuals is a serious concern as it robs the individual of his/her right to live confidently and effectively. It is also discouraging to see how homosexuals are discriminated against and threatened for the lifestyle they adhere to. Instead of understanding their behaviour in all honest neutrality, morality based on religion has superseded general empathy. People have been blinded by their hate and bigotry against those who do not conform to their conventional stereotypes. This is the sad predicament of people who do not align themselves to socially dictated orientations. There is no way for them to get redress for their grievances because they are not given their due acknowledgement and are thus cornered and ostracised.
Zeeba T Hashmi is a freelance columnist and may be contacted at email@example.com