In Pakistan, Naz Male Health Alliance (NMHA) has planned IDAHOT events in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Hyderabad and Larkana this year.
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NMHA and their affiliates have once again put together various events to celebrate IDAHOT under the title TURNING THE TIDE: PAKISTAN CELEBRATES IDAHOT 2015. The programme touched a broad range of issues and marked IDAHOT in Pakistan as an important day to be commemorated. Read the organisers’ report:
Individuals with non-heteronormative behaviors come together for a day and celebrate what they have been vilified, bullied and abused for globally: being different. Homophobia has been explained as many things: fear of “the gays”, a penalty for digressing from traditional masculinities, or simply a hatred of a sexuality not well understood. Transphobia, similarly, has been identified on a spectrum ranging from plain hatred to public murders and mob lynching of individuals who identify with a gender not prescribed to them at birth. At one end, these issues are termed insignificant and unimportant to be addressed by many governments; while contrastingly societies put extra measures, often verging on open violence, on controlling these “queer” people and their “queerness”. IDAHOT, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, stands in the face of all these brutal societies and calls upon the fabulous, the colorful, and the very queer LGBTQI communities to come forth and celebrate what they have been denigrated for. We meet to turn the tides on the ocean of hatred against us, and in doing so forge an everlasting bond. A bond of resilience. A bond of friendship. A bond of commitment. And above all, a bond for unwavering, unfaltering bravery.
Muslim, gay and proud
Dostana Male Health Society, at Lahore, addressed the very Muslim, gay and proud important issue of self-stigma among gay youth. Pakistani has a religious society, and often young gay people feel guilty because of the negative treatment of homosexuality in the society, resulting in immense self-stigma for many of them. Dostana called upon LGBTQ activists and religious leaders to address the issue during IDAHOT 2015; and the results were phenomenal.
“I’ve always been told that I’ll rot in hell and that people like myself were pelted with rocks from the sky in the past as a punishment from God. That’s not true, and I am not one of those gang rapists God punished. And if one can’t love God’s creation, how can he claim to love God? I am who I am and anyone who thinks otherwise better educate himself” said Aryan, a 17 years old friend of Dostana, happily after the event.
Social Media for Social Justice
Karachi is the metropolitan hub of Pakistan; urban, raw, sprawling, with a very vibrant gay scene. Parwaz Male Health Society in Karachi has its fingers on the pulse of the city. They chose to use social media to spread awareness about homophobia, transphobia and how to fight it. Using the hashtags #beyourself #bebetter they uploaded content on social media, generating waves in the city. Along with the social media visibility, t-shirts with inspirational messages were worn by the attendees to raise visibility of the cause.“I just want to appropriately highlight the issue. A sensitized society is like fertile soil, with many opportunities and lots of color once the flowers blossom” said Usama Bin Ather, the Programme Director at Parwaz.
Silent no more
Khawaja Sira Society at Lahore is unique for many reasons, For starters it is the only community based organization providing comprehensive HIV and STI services to transwomen, which is entirely run by transwomen! In Pakistan, where transphobic bullying at schools and violence on the streets forces many transwomen to flee education, running KSS successfully has been an achievement of immense scale. This IDAHOT, KSS stood firm in the face of transphobia and sang and danced to popular tunes. The transwomen shared their stories and pledged their support to the cause of trans-equality.
Taking actionDareecha Male Health Society at Rawalpindi is mainly youth-led, and as a result is very proactive. Their IDAHOT event was no different. The attendees discussed why taking action was so necessary, and why speaking up and standing firm will eventually pave the way. The event rekindled the spirit of Stonewall Inn.
Defying PatriarchyPireh Male Health Society operates in Larkana, a small city in the Sindh province with a very feudal and patriarchal culture, which provides ample room and breathing space for wide scale exploitation, and physical and sexual abuse of transwomen and gay men. Many transwomen in Larkana wear men’s clothes and spend their time on the streets as men, as a way of avoiding any harm. This IDAHOT, however, they defied the patriarchal norms and headed to Pireh in all their diva glory, dressed up and made up like starlets from movie.
Building AlliancesHumraz Male Health Society at Hyderabad emphasized on building alliances this IDAHOT. They invited renowned human rights activists, lawyers and academia from the city to attend the event. They voiced their support for the cause and said that the dream of a just and equal Pakistan can never be complete without realizing LGBT rights are human rights.“We want inclusive rights; where our rights are protected along with every other marginalized group. We don’t want to be marginalized groups. That’s not the vision I have for the LGBTI in Pakistan. Together we can achieve the dream.” said Kashif Arain, the Drop-In Center Coordinator for Humraz.
You can find more information about the NMHA here.