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Pakistan’s slow journey toward modernity takes shape online

Farman NawazModern China, like Pakistan, has often been unfriendly to homosexuality. However, recently a Chinese court has agreed to hear a same-sex marriage case but the Pakistani version of The New York Times was hesitant to publish the picture of this news story and a blank space was left on the front page of the local edition of the newspaper.

The publishers feared that the picture, showing two men kissing, might arouse public anger and even legal consequences. Pakistan’s law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations dates back to October 6, 1860, under the colonial rule of the British Raj, and homophobic feeling has risen with the rise of militant Islamism in some areas of the country.

Secular and liberal viewpoints are not given space on the pages of newspapers and news channels in Pakistan and liberals have to wrap their ideas in religion and customs to make them worth publishing. But people have found social media a more accommodating space.

And what’s hidden in the mainstream media may emerge in the secret lives of Pakistanis. According to Huffington Post story of 2013, “Homosexuality is not tolerated in Pakistan, but the country leads Google searches for gay porn.” According to Daily Pakistan, a documentary film Poshida: Hidden LGBT Pakistan is prepared to explore the history and modern culture of LGBT Pakistan to provide a deep insight into this hidden world, including long traditions of homoerotic feeling in some areas.

Liberalism is not totally banned in the social spheres of Pakistan, but due to religious restrictions, it is not openly debated. And different provinces of Pakistan have different approaches toward religious matters.

For example, most of the blasphemy cases are registered in the Punjab where religious sectarianism is on the rise, but on the other hand, very few cases of blasphemy are registered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Purdah (wearing of the veil) is a must for women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the same Islamic custom is not observed strictly in Punjab.

The journey toward modernity is slow in Pakistan. But there are some instances, such as that Pakistanis are inclined toward modern education. New trends in fashion are adopted everywhere.

Nowadays in urban areas, women are encouraged to get education and opt for job. Gender equality is encouraged.

But still there are some areas where customs and traditions are hurdles in the way of modernism. Girls are not encouraged to select their life partners.

And there is no room for “vulgarity” in the social sphere. Secularism is still considered to be anti-Islamic. But this is a transitional period in Pakistan and development shows that new trends will be welcomed in every aspect of social life.

Writer: Farman Nawaz

The writer blogs at farmannawaz.wordpress.com and can be contacted at farmannawaz@gmail.com


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