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US Prods Pakistan LGBT Debate

in PAKISTAN, 05/07/2011

The US Embassy’s hosting of Pakistan’s first lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) ‘Pride Celebration’ has spurred a debate in the virtual world, where it is safest to air views on the taboo subject. Most people learnt of the celebration organised on June 26 through a statement posted in the ‘press releases’ section of the US Embassy website.

Unlike other press releases from the Embassy, however, this one was not widely circulated among the media. As the release was posted on micro-blogging site Twitter and various Pakistani blogs, people took to the virtual world to debate the consequences of what was possibly the country’s first LGBT event.

The US Embassy’s involvement in the event at a time of rising anti-American sentiments was pointed out by some bloggers.

During the event at the US embassy, Charge d’Affaires Richard Hoagland acknowledged the struggle for LGBT rights in Pakistan and said: “I want to be clear: the US Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way”.

A person who identified himself only as Ali wrote on the blog of The Express Tribune daily: “To all the straight people out there, think of this. Why would anyone in their right mind choose to be gay in a society that persecutes anything different? I am gay”.

“I would never wish it on anyone else as life can become hell. I would never choose this. But the fact is I don’t have a choice, I am who I am.

“So I just accept myself and get along with life”.

Ali added: “If you ask me to get married, who should I marry? Would you like it if your sister was married to a man who could not make her happy?” He pointed out that the situation is worse for lesbians in Pakistan.

Some bloggers took exception to Pakistan’s opposition to the first resolution passed by the United Nations last month to endorse the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Blogger Nuwas Manto criticised Pakistan’s envoy to the UN, Zamir Akram, for his stance on LGBT rights.

“We, the Pakistani queer people and our straight alliances, disapprove of the statement by Mr Akram that the resolution has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘fundamental human rights’,” Manto wrote.

“I am here to inform the world and Zamir Akram… that homosexuals do exist in Pakistan and that we demand our rights to love people of our own gender or even change our gender when we feel necessary to do so,” read Manto’s post on a blog.

“It is our body – the state and the ordinary mullah on the street must keep out of our beds,” he said.

In a related post elsewhere, a gay reader noted that the ‘Pakistan Queer Community’ had been asked to shut up “but it doesn’t mean we will stop speaking up for our personal freedoms”.

Manto, in a post for an Indian gay magazine, dwelt on the life of a gay person in Pakistan.

He noted that his family had been telling him how “I should become more manly” and that he could not be open about his sexual orientation as that would bring shame to his family.

Several groups like LGBT Pakistan have been floated on Facebook.

“Being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-sexual person is a considered a taboo vice in Pakistan and gay rights are close to non-existent.

“According to law, homosexuality has been illegal in Pakistan since 1860. Unlike in neighbouring India, the law has yet to be repealed,” reads the statement of the group inviting all gays to join.

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