a community organisation seeking to advance the rights of those marginalised on the basis of their body, gender, or sexuality.
Types of criminalisation
- Criminalises LGBT people
- Criminalises sexual activity between males
- Imposes the death penalty
Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 1860, which criminalises acts of ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’. This provision carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Only men are criminalised under this law. While there is a possibility that same-sex activity is prohibited by the Zina provisions of the Hudood Ordinance 1979, which criminalise all sexual conduct outside of marriage with the death penalty, there is no evidence that these laws are levied against LGBT people and this interpretation of the law is contested.
The Penal Code 1860 was introduced by the British during the colonial period, in which the English criminal law was imposed upon Pakistan. Pakistan retained the provision upon independence and continues to criminalise same-sex sexual activity today.
There is some evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with LGBT people occasionally being subject to arrest. There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, including murder, rape, assault, and the denial of basic rights and services. Transgender women are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse, despite an improving legislative environment for transgender people.
Pakistan’s Parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in May. This law grants the country’s transgender citizens fundamental rights. It allows people to have their gender identity recognised on official documents, including national IDs, passports and driver’s licenses. The legislation also prohibits discrimination in schools, at work, on public transport and while receiving medical care.
In March, Pakistan voted in favour of a failed Russian draft proposal at the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) that would have overturned the Secretary-General’s decision to extend UN staff benefits same-sex married couples.
In September, the Supreme Court of Pakistan affirmed that transgender citizens should be given equal basic rights as all citizens, including employment and inheritance rights.
In November, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to collect data from the hijra community, a traditional gender non-conforming community, and register them as voters.
In December, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that the country’s hijra community should be issued with national identity cards showing their distinct gender.
We’ve also assessed Pakistan’s sexual offence laws against international human rights standards. Not only does Pakistan criminalise same-sex sexual activity, it also fails to properly protect other vulnerable groups, such as women and children, from sexual offences.
In August it was reported that the Lahore High Court had issued an arrest warrant for a trans man accused of entering into a ‘same-sex marriage’ with a cisgender woman. The man had declared in July that he had undergone gender affirming surgery.
The US Department of State report states that the government rarely prosecuted cases against LGBT people.
In its 2015 State-Sponsored Homophobia report, ILGA World stated that they are not aware of contemporaneous evidence that consensual same-sex sexual activity has been targeted for the death penalty.
In June, Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that police arrested two men in the Jaffarabad district of Balochistan after they allegedly carried out an alleged “secret marriage.”
According to one article in August, a boy was arrested after being discovered having sex with another boy in a field. The boy’s family allegedly attempted to bribe the police, but the police would not accept the bribe. The same article claimed that whilst many arrests occur: “[i]n almost all cases charges will be dropped.”
In December, a TV reporter entered a couple’s house, accusing them of being gay. The news segment was filmed with phrases such as “[LGBT are] worthy of stoning” running over the top of the clip. The couple were arrested by police, although it is not known under what offence they were charged.
In November, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, relying on information provided by the Neengar Society, suggested that ten prosecutions have taken place under section 377 in the city of Multan, two of which resulted in a ten year prison sentence for those convicted.
43 people were arrested in May when the police suspected a gay marriage was taking place. One of those accused of getting married told police it was a birthday party, however both were arrested and charged under section 377.
In February, the Islamabad police established the Tahafuz Police Khidmat Markaz and Reporting Center to handle cases perpetuated against trans individuals. The Islamabad Transgender Protection Unit reported 44 complaints were filed, with more than half the complaints involving violence or harassment against trans persons.
The US Department of State reported that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa saw an increase in violence against trans persons. Trans activists complained police did not act against targeted attacks on the community and remained indifferent despite several protests. On March 12, five transgender persons suffered critical injuries when a man opened fired at them in the Upper Chania area of Mansehra District. The transgender union later staged a protest and demanded authorities to control the increasing violence in Mansehra District. On March 17, men riding motorcycles opened fire on the vehicle of several transgender persons near the city museum in Mardan, killing one and injuring another. On March 26, two transgender persons were killed in two separate shooting incidents in Peshawar and Mardan Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In July, a video was shared online depicting men assaulting a group of transgender women, who were raped at gunpoint. According to a range of LGBT NGOs and activists, society generally shunned transgender women, ‘eunuchs’, and intersex persons, collectively referred to as hijras, who often lived together in slum communities and survived by begging and dancing at carnivals and weddings, while others relied on prostitution. Property owners and local authorities often denied transgender people the right to buy and rent properties, though the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018 was passed to address many of these issues.
In April, unidentified assailants stabbed and killed a transgender person in Karachi. This followed the death and torture of an elderly member of the trans community in March.
The US Department of State report noted that violence and discrimination persisted against LGBT people with impunity as police generally refused to take action. For instance, in Karachi, Sindh Police were slow or reluctant to investigate crimes committed against transgender women, including two murders in August and two gang rapes in September.
In April, armed men in Swabi reportedly abducted and gang-raped a trans woman after killing two others in a pre-dawn incident while a group of transgender persons were returning home after performing a music and dance show at a wedding party.
Three transgender women were murdered in a drive-by shooting on the evening of 8 May. Almas Bobby, a Pakistani trans activist, told Pakistan’s Dawn News that “the attackers could be those who did not like the presence of transgenders in the locality.”
In May, terror suspects in Karachi revealed in a police investigation that they wanted to kill gay people and those who were “promoting homosexuality at the behest of America”.
In May, a Lahore paramedic confessed to killing three gay men whom he met online. Authorities suspended one senior officer allegedly involved in the attack, and the police department launched an investigation.
In July, the UK Home Office’s Country Information and Guidance report on Pakistan stated that: “Widespread and systematic discrimination against LGBT persons in Pakistan… persist[s], including harassment and violence… No effective protection is provided by the authorities.” The document also stated that: “Gay rights activists and other individuals who openly campaign for gay rights in Pakistan would be at real risk of persecution from societal actors.”
A popular gay website was blocked in September, despite it containing no pornography. A spokesman of the PTA (Pakistan’s internet regulator) gave reasons for the censorship: “We blocked the website under the law because its content was against Islam and norms of Pakistani society.”
For the first time in the country’s history, several transgender women ran for public office in the May general election.
A qualitative study published in BMC International Health and Human Rights found that “the transgender community is socially excluded by Pakistani society which is leading them to indulge in commercial sex and putting their lives at risk.”
an organisation working to advance the social and health rights of the hijra community in Pakistan.
a local organisation supporting the health and rights of men who have sex with men and transgender people.
a Karachi-based organisation working to improve the health and rights of men who have sex with men.
a human rights organisation which works in part on transgender rights in Pakistan.
a community organisation supporting the transgender community in Pakistan.
Afghanistan criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.
Iran criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.
Bangladesh criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
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