Living a silent lesbian life in Pakistan
Shutterstock/Ruud Morijn Photographer

Living a silent lesbian life in Pakistan

By Habiba Nosheen Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 20:07
Fatima leaned in to share a secret she had revealed to only a few people: "I'm lesbian," she said hesitantly. "I think I knew since a very early age. It felt quite isolating. Like, I didn't see people or kids around me feel the same way."

In Pakistan, homosexuality is outlawed and in theory gays and lesbians can be jailed and fined. But in practice it's not the law they fear, Fatima told me at a cafe in the Pakistani city of Lahore. It's family and neighbours, whom she suspects murder many gays and lesbians in honour killings.

Secret romance "From the time that I've known this about myself, every day that I've felt that I'd wish I was just like everybody else," Fatima says.

Her attraction to women became undeniable when she found herself in love with her best friend at high school.

After years of a secret romance, Fatima's girlfriend suddenly left her, saying there was no future for them in Pakistan. She married a man. Fatima says she can understand why her girlfriend made that decision.

"Disease" "I mean, I think from the time that you're born you're socialized into believing that homosexuality is unnatural," she says. "It is a disease, and it is completely prohibited."

Shortly after, Fatima also married a man, in an attempt to conform to Pakistani values. But only a few months into her marriage she met another woman, Kiran, and the two fell in love.

Under the radar After months of begging, Fatima's family finally agreed to let her get a divorce.

Fatima and Kiran now live together and they say that even though Pakistani society isn’t very open to gays and lesbians, as long as they stay under the radar, not many people will ever suspect that they are lesbians.

Sexual needs "Yeah, it's not within the realm of possibility," Fatima says. "People don't usually contemplate two women living together, that they are into each other. Good for us."

"Because in our society, women don't have sexual needs, desires, drives, whatever. And those that do, run brothels," Kiran says. "Either you are a nice girl, or you are a fast girl. So if we are fast girls, it means that men come and visit us. If we are nice girls, it means that girls come and visit us, which works out."

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the women.

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