A Cry in the Wilderness: Male Homosexuality in Pakistan

Prolific Brazilian writer, Paulo Coelho, once wrote, “Human beings can withstand a week without water, two weeks without food, many years of homelessness, but not loneliness. It is the worst of all tortures, the worst of all sufferings.” If there is something like ‘the biggest truth of life’ than this thought is it. It’s written in the human template that we are social creatures who cannot stand loneliness and alienation. We formulate societies and develop relationships just to satiate our basic instinctual drive to socialize and bond. That’s why we want to be loved, cared and consoled as we are emotional beings with hearts that feel and minds that imagine. Therefore, relationships either the ones we are born with or the ones we choose to develop and further extend, are crucial for the proper development of one’s personality.

Although life isn’t easy for anyone and everyone has to bear his or her share of toils and good tidings, it’s incredibly difficult for homosexuals to express their romantic and sexual preferences because they are regarded as mere filthy perverted souls who are doomed to end up in hell. Torn between the social pressures and religious dogmas, most of them remain conflicted and never reconcile with their true nature and self. Due to this discrimination and stigmatization, there many instances of excommunication, verbal threats, bullying, physical abuse and even suicide in this vulnerable minority.

In Pakistan, homosexuality is regarded as a taboo issue and people generally avoid talking about it. But if someone dares to talk about it, he is targeted as a pervert himself who is intoxicating the impressionable virgin minds of the common man. No one seems seriously interested in addressing and discussing the issue. Religious scholars either pronounce capital punishment for homosexuals or lifetime celibacy. Psychiatrists and medical practitioners, who otherwise blindly approve of every single western piece of information or research in their field, have serious doubts regarding the authenticity of evidences declaring homosexuality a natural phenomenon and not a disorder or disease. Social workers and civil society are busy raising slogans for judges, women’s and children’s rights while completely over looking this issue.

For the most part, people disregard homosexuality as immoral while completely ignoring the suffering and pain of homosexuals, who are denied their basic human rights to affectionate relationships because the heteronormative majority disapproves of such relations. Society accepts them so long as they are marrying, procreating and fulfilling the responsibilities of their families; after that they are free to do whatever they want.  But leading this dual life is hardly a solution and it’s high time that we addressed this issue and tried to develop an alternative framework as traditional Judaism and Christianity have done. Therefore, Muslim societies need to seek alternative interpretations of scriptures and available scientific research evidences to develop a rational and considerate stance regarding homosexuality.

As far as scientific front is concerned, in 1999 a constellation of prestigious organizations – the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers and National Education Association – jointly issued a document entitled, “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation,” which clearly stated that homosexuality is not a matter of choice and it cannot be changed. But such research evidences seems to fall on deaf ears as in developing countries like Pakistan, homosexuals are still ridiculed and discriminated against, with a complete absence of any religious, social or legal protection and support.

Arguments for the innateness of homosexuality may even be deduced from the verse 30:22 of the Qur’an put forward by famous Canadian journalist and intellectual Irshad Manji, who stated that God made nothing in vain. She questioned that if God has created diversity in nature, personality, color and race of human beings than how can He simply have discarded sexual orientation? As the verse states:

And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors; most surely there are signs in this for the learned.

Renowned American scholar Scott Siraj ul Haqq Kugle had pointed out that the Qur’an certainly implies that some people are different in their sexual desires than others when it mentions “men who are not in need of women” (Verse 24:30). The reason for no sexual desire can be due to old age, illness or self-control that involves an inner disposition that could be characterized as “asexual” or due to different sexual orientation. This suggestion from Qur’an is suggestive not indicative.

Homosexual behavior is natural in the sense that it is extensively found in nature. It has been observed in antelopes, boars, bulls, chimpanzees, cows, ducks, cats, dogs, fruit flies, geese, gorillas, gulls, horses, humans, langurs, rams, sheep, macaques, monkeys, turkeys and vervets. Bruce Bagemihl, a biologist from Seattle, Washington, USA, has even prepared an encyclopedia of homosexual and transgender behavior among animals which lists more than 190 species, including butterflies and other insects.

One can then make the argument that if homosexuality is an unnatural perversion how come the Almighty created gay animals, who certainly do not exercise a choice in the matter? Thus, if God has created various varieties of fruits, exotic types of species, different kinds of human beings, each with separate physical, mental and emotional attributes, then how is it possible that the Almighty overlooked sexuality, which is one of the essential components of a human being?

Sexual diversity can also be understood in terms of personality types. For instance, there are some people who are born extroverts and some are introverts by their natural inclination. It is neither possible nor does it seem to be the purpose of God to artificially change the personalities of human beings as they are operating in accordance to their innate predispositions. Therefore, this diversity in human personality is God’s will and we should respect it instead of damaging it with our self-centered views. One can only come up with the best of his/her potential if one is given enough space to act in accordance with what one actually is.

Hence, it will be a great contribution towards society if everyone starts understanding and giving respect to the human dignity and personhood of sexual minorities. As the writer Pamela Taylor put it, “The Prophet said we are not true believers until we want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves. I want a satisfying, committed, loving relationship with my spouse. How could I want to deny that to anyone?”

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