(Originally published in Express Tribune -Pakistani daily newspaper- on July 2 2011)
In 2003, Brazil brought the case for homosexual rights on the United Nations table, only to be derailed at the lat minute by the Muslim and African countries.
Instead, amendments were introduced for removal of any reference to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
My country, Pakistan was the captain of Team Homophobe .It distributed a memo to the member states declaring that the approval of the recommendation would be “a direct insult to 1.2 billion Muslims around the world.”
This year, thanks to three abstentions, China being absent, Libya’s suspension, and the efforts of South Africa to table to resolution again, it was approved. This is the first time UN has officially condemned homophobia and commissioned a study into the plight of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community, so that they may be reviewed and discussed later on in Geneva.
But then what? How long will China be absent? How long will Libya remain suspended?
Ironically the states which sat there, disapprovingly eyeing the resolution, are the ones with the worst human rights violations- be it freedom of expression, religious minority rights or any other democratic principle for the essential working of a modern and open society.
Who are they to vote on “fundamental” human rights when their own record reeks with violations?
Frankly, it seems like a joke to allow these countries to cast a vote on human rights.
I am here to inform the world and Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s envoy to UN, that homosexuals do exist in Pakistan and that we demand our rights to love people of our own gender or even change our gender when we feel necessary to do so.
It is our body- the state and the ordinary mullah on the street, must keep out of our beds.
We, the Pakistani queer people and our straight alliances, disapprove of the statement by Mr Akram that the resolution has nothing whatsoever to do with “fundamental human rights”.
Quite the contrary, LGBT rights are as much of incontrovertible human rights as the rights of women and religious minority. It’s only the rampant homophobia of the aggressively heterosexist society which has come to believe and make us believe otherwise. It is the fundamental right of homosexual, bisexual or transgender man (or a woman) to love, to marry, to form a family, and to work without discrimination in a workplace of his choice and be unapologetic.
It might seem like an elite concern to heterosexuals but this is a basic right to those demanding the right to love.
As a Pakistani, I condemn the words of Zamir Akram and stand as a proof that there are many in Pakistan who dream of an egalitarian and gay-friendly nation here.
Some rights are “fundamental” and need to be defended against the face of notoriety and odds. Queer rights are one of them. Full stop. Nothing to be apologetic about it.
Muslim and African countries must be pushed, by the international community, to give into gay rights, just as we would want to push them greater application of women’s rights and freedom of expression (or any other human right for that matter).