Monday, September 26, 2005

Pakistan and sex

Miranda Kennedy, at The Boston Globe, 11 July 2004, wrote about sex in Pakistan. She claims that sex between men and boys 'is embedded in the society'.

Kennedy claims that 'across all classes and social groups', males have sex with males.

She writes that in villages throughout Pakistan, 'young boys are often forcibly "taken" by older men'.

In the Northwest Frontier Province, the Pashtun men take young boys as lovers.

The American sociologist Stephen O. Murray writes in 'Sociolegal Control of Homosexuality: A Multi-Nation Comparison,' 1997:

"Islamic tradition frowns on but acknowledges male-male sex, and this plays a role in permitting clandestine sex so long as it is not allowed to interfere with family life, which is of paramount importance."

According to Murray, the most common form of male homosexuality in Pakistan is pederasty.

Faisal Alam, founder of the Al-Fatiha Foundation, a Washington-based organization for gay and lesbian Muslims, argues that (in the Koran) Lot's people were killed not because they had homosexual sex, but because they were forcing sex on each other.

Veteran human rights lawyer Hina Jilani says there are innumerable cases of young boys - some sex workers, some not - charged under Pakistan's sodomy law, even if they have been enticed into sex.

Jilani has defended children arested by the police. Jilani explains that children often spend many years in jail awaiting trial.

A boy called Khurram, at the age of 8, was sent out to support his family. He says his employer sexually assaulted him.

Now he lives beside the bus stand in Rawalpindi and sells sex. "I don't like what I do," he says sorrowfully. "I am doing it so my sister can go to school."

The Northwest Frontier Province, the province 'that helped give rise to the Taliban', is the part of Pakistan 'where homosexuality is most tolerated'. According to Kennedy:

"Among the Pashtun majority, having a young, attractive boyfriend is a symbol of prestige and wealth for affluent middle-aged men. Indeed, Pashtun men often keep a young boy in their hujra, the male room of the house that the wife rarely enters. The practice is so common that there are various slang terms for the boyfriends in different regional languages: larke (boy), warkai, alec....

"In theory, the boys could marry when they're grown, but they are generally considered damaged, and end up wandering the streets as outcasts."

Sayed Mudassir Shah, a human rights activist based in Peshawar, states:

"It is so common to take boy lovers, that it is part of our Pashtun folklore.

"One story tells of a wife crying to her husband that he has made her jealous, because he is spending so much time in the hujra with his boyfriend. This is folklore, but it is similar in life."

According to Kennedy:

Sex between males is commonplace in Pakistan's madrassas, or religious schools.

Sajat, aged 25, told Kennedy he first had sex with a man at a religious school in a central Pakistani village.

"Sajat's first sexual encounter with a man was by choice."

Sajat mentions 'his regular trawls for boys through Islamabad's parks'.

Sajat is engaged to be married, to a woman.

(Miranda Kennedy is a journalist based in New Delhi. She reports frequently for National Public Radio from across South Asia.)


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