Living in Closed Society

Published: July 2, 2013

My name is Akber Rizvi. I am a man of 30 years old and I live with my boyfriend in Karachi, Pakistan. I have my Bachelor’s degree in textile design and I worked for different design houses. I like to wear ladies clothing. But whenever I leave my house, people stare at me from top to bottom, sometimes with a grin, sometimes with hostility. At times I hear people call me names, such as ‘faggot’, which is an attack on my self-respect. Since my childhood I have been experiencing stigma and discrimination. In Pakistan, feminine boys are being bullied and mocked, at home, at school, in their neighbourhood, everywhere. Some are beaten by their parents, brothers and sisters, and forced to change their behaviour, even forced to get married.
 
In a closed society like ours, men who have sex with men feel suppressed and are more conscious about disclosing their sexuality. Even when they are with friends with the same interest, some are reluctant to talk about their sexual role – top, bottom or versatile. Moreover, men who have sex with men and third genders can hardly get treatment for sexually transmitted infections in government run facilities and private clinics. In the eyes of the doctors and paramedics they have done something very illegal and against the norm of society and religion. This judgmental attitude prevents them from going there. But nowadays they can go to community-based organisations, for HIV diagnosis and referral for medication amongst other things.
 
At the end of the day my work will be judged and not my sexuality
 
I myself work for the community-based organisation Parwaz Male Health Society (PMHS) as a monitoring and evaluation officer. We participate in the Bridging the Gaps programme. Our activities include the empowerment of men who have sex with men and third genders, and prevention of sexual transmitted infections. Besides collecting and verifying data, I interact with people from the community. For example with male sex workers who face abuse by their clients. Usually, I have a chat with them over a cup of tea and try to release the grieve. And, if they agree, I link them to a counsellor. In my workplace, I experience equality and appreciation, which is a boost for my self-confidence. I feel relaxed while performing my duties, as at the end of the day my work will be judged and not my sexuality.

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