Pakistan: Nation of Gay Sex, But Little Love

8.28.2013

By Neal Broverman

A gay subculture thrives in Pakistan and especially the city of Karachi.

While most Pakistani gay men are pressured into marriage with women, many continue to sleep with other men and do so in some very public places, like Karachi's busiest shrine.

One Karachi man who plans underground gay parties recently told the BBC that his city is a "gay man's paradise." It's a badly kept secret that gay men in Pakistan's patriarchal society don't stifle their same-sex urges. While the nation remains very conservative when it comes to homosexuality — out gay couples are uncommon — many men are known to grope each other at shrines and participate in same-sex affairs while married to women.

These affairs are almost always sexual in nature and lack commitment. "Gay men will make every effort to stop any investment in a same-sex relationship because they know that one day they will have to get married to a woman," researcher Qasim Iqbal told the BBC. A woman said she knew her husband stepped out on her with other men, but it didn't bother her.

Generally speaking, there's much shame in Pakistani society when it comes to homosexuality. When two boys were caught having sex, one of the boy's parents bribed the police so that news reports indicated their son was the "top"; it would have been more shameful had he been the "bottom."

Lesbians also live in the shadows. Some gay women told the BBC they felt guilty fighting for gay rights before women have equality in Pakistan.

"I think it's selfish for me to come out and campaign for gay rights now," one woman said. "It's selfish to the women in my family who are fighting for education and the right to marry the man of their dreams, or not to marry at all."

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