DATELINE: Gay as a Misnomer
Charming, affable, and entertaining Mawaan is a British citizen of Pakistani descent who decides to go back to his native land to see what it would be like to live there as a gay man. The documentary is chilling.
Twenty years ago, a Pakistani student told us that there was no gay life in Pakistan. If the religious fanatics learned of your sexuality, they would come in the night to murder you. End of story. No one would care.
Now years later, Mawaan’s visit basically discovers not much has changed. The British performer bravely takes in two of the biggest cities on his research: Lahore and Karachi where gay people live in abject terror that they could be discovered and stoned to death, blown up, or simply brutalized.
Mawaan spent two weeks there—and probably learned more than he cared to know. In the rural areas where he did not go, the worst extremists may reside and terrorize anyone with sexual behavior that diverts from traditional culture.
When Mawaan visits an imam, who is learned and civilized, he visibly flinches at the revelation that the young visitor is gay. His best advice is to leave the country, not an option for most gay Pakistanis.
Indeed, gay life exists, as it has for centuries, in secret. The designation MSM (Men Sleeping with Men) actually accounts for many because poor men cannot afford prostitutes and Muslim women are above sexuality. They end up sleeping with each other.
It is not a pretty picture with secret chambers in the darkest ghettos where such life takes place.
Gay parties are held in secret—and HIV health centers exist in fear that someone could throw a bomb at them at any time. We remained in awe at the courage of Mawaan to visit places in the most dangerous cities in the world.
This little documentary provides extraordinary insight into repression and cruelty that still spawns hope in so many desperate people. Mawan is to be commended for uncovering the truth and showing the world the harsh life of gay people in Pakistan.