“How Gay is Pakistan?”
In this new documentary, Mawaan Rizwan asks what life is really like for gay people in Pakistan, where homosexuality is illegal and considered by some as a disease. In this revealing journey to the country of his birth, Mawaan meets people living gay and transgender lives despite constant fear of persecution. He also discovers a fascinating and shocking private world where sex between men is surprisingly common, but where LGBT rights are limited.
While in the country he’s also offered a miracle herbal cure for his own homosexuality. What Rizwan found and what he shares with us is surprising as we learn that Pakistan is a lot gayer than we had thought. However, his coming out to his family was “the worst news for Pakistani parents to hear”, yet in such a fundamentalist country he discovered gay sex dens, underground LGBT parties and communities of transgender women living together.
Homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan— it is viewed as an offence against Islamic law. Because of this, LGBT people face abuse every day. Rizwan bravely admitted he was gay in front of an imam, whose response was: “The hole made for the human body is for waste, it is not for sex.” Now the Rizwan of what he called his homosexual “illness” and prescribed a course of medication after feeling Rizwan’s pulse. From this, the imam reached the conclusion that his liver was overheated and this caused his “urine to mix with semen”. Thankfully, 24-year-old Rizwan had the last laugh when he called him after taking the course of medication to tell him he still had sexual feelings towards men. What we find so offensive here is the imam’s outdated ideas. (He also has an orange beard).
Homosexuality in Pakistan is a serious issue even though we Rizwan presents us with a bit of humor. I am sure he would have preferred being in London to Pakistan. It is important to remember that being gay in Pakistan is a crime that carried the death sentence. Many Pakistanis see it as a disease yet Rizwan found a bit of a different situation.
He was on a quest to find out what life is really like for gay people in Pakistan and what he found turned out to be both shocking and surprising. He met with gay activists Sid and his transgender partner Kami who organize club nights for the boys and while this is not spoken of, everyone of the gay scene seems to know about them. Sid and Kami have been together for seven years and they want to become Pakistan’s first same-sex married couple. It is surprising to see the openness of the guys at the party—they show their faces and speak directly to the camera. This could get them killed and they have no one to speak for them or voice their concerns. It is also interesting to see Kami hold her own on the streets especially when confronted by traditionalists who pray to God to purge gay people’s minds. They cannot easily leave the country and this is one of two options avail able—leaving or living secret lives.
We meet Shahzadi, who without her guru’s permission has taken the ultimate snip to become a women. Perhaps the most unexpected of all that Rizwan found was an area of the city where low paid straight men go cruising for sex – with men (because they cannot afford to pay prostitutes)., on account that they cannot afford female prostitutes! Although how many of them are truly an absolute zero on the Kinsey scale, is open to question. We see that there is somewhat of a thriving gay scene in Pakistan. Yet all is not a bed of pink roses, as a sickening video not televised, but shown to Rizwan of a fifteen-year-old boy who when caught with his gay lover, was brutally attacked by a mob just because he is gay. It seems that the powers that are know about the gay scene but turn a blind eye in that direction (at least as long as it remains underground.