Homosexuality is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but that is hardly a deterrent for active members of gay groups who organise get-togethers every now and then.
One such get-together of three gay groups was organized at Artillery Maidan Park near the Governor’s House in the southern port city of Karachi on Sunday.
The members wore blue caps to identify themselves and shared biryani on the greens of the park as they met scores of new members.
One of the organisers of the gay meet, identified only as Kami, spoke to journalists after the get-together that was attended by around three dozen men of different ages, ethnicity and economic backgrounds.
“I don’t know why you are surprised at such meetings, this is not the first time we have met and will not be the last. We often arrange such get-togethers,” Kami was quoted as saying by Pakistan Today newspaper.
“There is a certain fee that we charge from participants before inviting them, so that they may come and meet with others who are like them. There are thousands like us in Karachi,” he said.
Kami, in his late twenties, is a resident of Lyari neighbourhood of Karachi and a computer operator. He discovered his sexual preferences in his early teens and has been forced to lead a life of secrecy since then.
Meets such as the one on Sunday are organised with great secrecy and trust.
No one at the park but homosexuals could recognise this get-together and only those who knew a special “code” could find each other.
The secrecy is understandable as homosexuality in Pakistan is considered taboo, with legal, religious and social norms refusing to accept it.
Shahzad, 33, a resident of north Nazimabad neighbourhood and one of the organisers of Sunday’s meet, too decided to speak up.
“There are also ‘burger’ gay clubs in the posh areas of the city; they often arrange parties in private homes, farmhouses or bungalows, where they meet, dance and even drink in the company of their mates,” he was quoted as saying.
“We organise our parties at public places because we are unable to afford private places, and this private party was just an opportunity for members of different groups to come and select new partners,” Shahzad said.
Kami said homosexuality is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan and that some members hold influential posts.
“Our groups are the most democratic groups, where people from different political affiliations, cultural and social backgrounds, religious beliefs and ethnicities are welcome.
“There is only a one-point agenda: homosexuality. If I started telling you about a few big names that are homosexual, and I know them personally, you will be shocked,” Kami said.