Homophobia And Pakistan

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On June 26 2015, the United States of America legalized same-sex marriage, thus becoming the 21st country in the world to do so. Historically speaking, same-sex marriages spread out across various shades of legal form have existed, dating back to Ancient Greece and continuing till Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. In the case of modern nation states, Scandinavian countries took the lead, with Denmark, Norway and Sweden legalizing same-sex unions in 1989, 1993 and 1994 respectively.

Opposition to same sex-marriage, and homosexuality in general, still exists in countries that have legalized same-sex marriage. Arguments range from religious concerns to the law of nature. Slide in concerns about ruining traditional marriage and fear of polygamy, and the list of arguments against same-sex marriage only goes up. But despite opposition, acceptance for homosexuality is becoming more common by the day. It is easy to keep track of figures and progress related to same-sex marriage and other civil unions in societies that accept homosexuality. In the case of Pakistan and over 150 other countries of the world that do not recognize same-sex marriage, it is difficult. The reason behind why it is difficult can vary, but a major reason behind this is the disturbing homophobic attitude towards same-sex couples in most of these countries, Pakistan included.

Tons of ethnic slurs have become a permanent part of Pakistani society, but there is none more common than that of the homosexual Pathan. This slur has been around for what seems like eternity and sheds light on two disturbing features of Pakistani life : generalizing an entire ethnicity based on racial nonsense passed on from generation to generation ( the crook Sindhi, the ugly Bengali etc ), and sex jokes, almost exclusively ones that ridicule homosexuality.

Growing up in Pakistan, it is impossible to not come across the perceived connection between Pathans and homosexuality, such is its tragic strength in public and private debate. Growing up in Pakistan, it is also impossible to defend homosexuality as a private matter between two individuals. Not when the natural order of life is argued for, and certainly not when religion is thrown into the center to shun of all arguments, the story of ‘Qaum e Lut’ being the favorite reference point for everyone pounding their Islamic chests and flying the flag of God’s wrath and eternal damnation sky high.

While it is natural to expect a homophobic stance from religious people, what is perhaps surprising is to see a similar reaction from the not-religious-lot too. While stories of ‘Qaum e Lut’ are not told like Shakespearean tragedies in discussions with them, their argument against homosexuality is horrifically simple – “It is disgusting”. How someone else’s sexual preference disgusts them is the confusing part here.

None of this was more evident that It was on the social media, the center stage of shooting from the hip ( Not a play on words, my dear homophobic friends ). Facebook and Twitter had been abuzz with people expressing support for same-sex relations, with various annual Pride Parades taking place globally. A significant chunk of this support on the social media was expressed via changing display pictures on Facebook to the rainbow flag. Over 1 million people changed their pictures during the first few hours, and the number continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Pakistan too, thankfully, had its fair share of supporters for the whole campaign. However on the opposite side of the coin, and sadly the much heavier side of the coin, the homophobic attitude was expressed in the most spectacular of manners, exemplified by not only the regular everyday Pakistani Facebook user, but also by celebrities like Hamza Ali Abbasi.

While people like Hamza Ali Abbasi should only be taken seriously when Amir Liaquat retires, the most devastatingly disappointing aspect of homophobic tirade by Pakistanis on the social media was this – It was instigated by people belonging to educated backgrounds. It was instigated by people who had traveled and understood the world. It was instigated by people who had been exposed to different cultures. It was instigated by people who see the country being thrown to the dogs every passing day. It was instigated by people who want to see the country progress. It was instigated by people who preach tolerance. Yet, they were comfortable with stomping over something as trivial and basic as sexual preference, and shred every notion of tolerance for the fellow man into a billion unrecognizable pieces.

This whole episode is a sad reminder of where we stand as a society. It is a reminder of how far into the future we need to travel to stretch open the horrifically narrow minds we carry. It is a reminder of how rotten the Pakistani mindset is.

This post appeared on Very Bad Apple on 3 July, 2015.

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