Karachi, Pakistan – Pakistan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has launched a website in a hostile cyberspace in which the government blocks thousands of sites for displaying "objectionable and offensive" material.
Published: August 13, 2013
"Queer Pakistan", launched last month, aims to act as a virtual support group for an LGBT community on the fringes of mainstream society that has no other platform to interact with one another. The site already has an estimated 8,000 users.
The website attempts to provide psychological support, counselling and networking while raising awareness about sexual health in a country where the topic is rarely discussed in schools or families.
"The LGBT community in Pakistan is a vulnerable group. They exist, but the mainstream society just looks the other way," explained Noman*, who helped spearhead the initiative. "This website is our way of breaking the silence and shame that surrounds us."
In our society, there is not even basic sex education in schools – it is impossible for people to know about things like an identity crisis or prevention of HIV.
In Pakistan, a tightly guarded silence surrounds the issue of homosexuality, which is religiously and legally condemned – making it very rare for those with a different sexual orientation to acknowledge this openly.
Homosexuality remains an offence under Pakistan’s penal code, by which a person voluntarily engaging in intercourse "against the order" of nature can be sentenced to 2-10 years in jail – or, in some instances, to death.
Yet despite the moral, religious and cultural taboos, a sizeable LGBT community exists in the country, whose members face considerable problems coming to terms with their sexual identity.
"In our society, there is not even basic sex education in schools – it is impossible for people to know about things like an identity crisis or prevention of HIV," Noman says. "And if you are different or a homosexual, then things are even worse."
Queer Pakistan is a public forum where people can post general questions ranging from family pressure to safe sex, but also obtain private counseling from experts – features that set the website apart from earlier LGBT websites in the country. The initiative has two voluntary medical professionals on board, and hopes to get more.
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