AUSTIN SZABO WRITES – The front page of Pakistan’s only LGBT support website, Queer Pakistan, reads “Don’t Hate Us, Know Us!”
The Pakistani government said no.
In another attempt to impede social progress in Pakistan, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (the PTA) censored the website, saying “Surf Safely! This website is not accessible. The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan”, according to Albawaba.
“We blocked the website under the law because its content was against Islam and norms of Pakistani society,” said a PTA spokesman to Dawn. Under Pakistani law, homosexuality and blasphemy are considered to be as liable for censorship as pornography. A Pew Research Center report about homosexuality places Pakistani society as one of the least tolerant in the world, with only 2% responding positively.
“I was not hopeful about the future of the website, I was convinced that sooner or later it would be banned”, said a moderator of the website. The site was founded in July, and has since become one of the few safe spaces for people to discuss LGBT issues in Pakistan. The people behind the website will not challenge the PTA in court, due to the clarity of the law and worries of a “negative reaction.” The participants of the website and those who founded it have chosen to remain nameless for their safety. The website has since changed its address to dodge the ban.
Browsing the website, it is hard, if not impossible, to justify Pakistani law against homosexuality, and the actions of the PTA. There is little that is blasphemous or pornographic about the problems facing those who post in the support groups. The questions involve the every day worries of the minorities, such as finding anyone like them in their area or school, or dealing with depression and rejection. One person states, despondently, “No one knows how I feel”.
Despite the fear, the discrimination, and the government’s efforts to isolate individual gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender Pakistanis, one message, filled with hope, reads “You are not alone.”