›› How Gay is Pakistan? ‹‹

a documentary presented by Mawaan Rizwan.

2015 | 60 mins | UK.

an insightful look at what life is really like for gay people in Pakistan.

Official Synopsis:

Mawaan Rizwan sets out to discover what life is like for gay people in Pakistan, where homosexuality is illegal. Mawaan meets members of the gay and transgender community who live their lives openly, despite threats of retribution. He also explores whether the fears of the country's gay community are justified, and discovers a fascinating world behind closed doors.

Dave says:

Not a review of a film, my friends; rather a few words on this BBC documentary that is certainly worthy of review, given it poignantly asked the question - how gay is Pakistan? The answer of which would appear to be obvious, given homosexuality is not only illegal in Pakistan, as punishable by death, but considered by many to be a disease. Yet as openly gay YouTube comedian Mawaan Rizwan was set to discover, the true answer is not quite as straight forward as what it would appear.

For returning to the country of his birth, here Mawaan embarked on a quest to discover what life is really like for gay people in Pakistan and what he found turned out to be both shocking; yet equally surprising. Not least of which was his encounter with gay activists Sid and his transgendered partner Kami who organize club nights for the boyz that whilst on the QT, are nevertheless well known on the local gay scene. Together for seven years, with a desire to become Pakistan's first same-sex married couple - yes, you read that right, what surprised me when watching this section of the programme was the openness of those dancing the night away, not afraid to show their faces, either in the background, or in the forefront talking direct to camera. It's a high risk act of pride, for sure, given as one participant put it - "they can kill us, because no-one speaks for us".

Yet there are voices fighting for their cause, in particular Sid, Kami and their friends who are far from shy in tackling homophobia head on, with Kami soon to be found bravely standing her ground on the streets, when confronted by those of "more traditional views". Views that by no surprise mirror those of the local imam who prays that God will purge Mawaan's mind of thoughts that are "not right", before bluntly telling him - "either live a secret life, or leave the country". Yet leaving the country is not an option for the majority of Pakistan's LGBT community, including Sid's transgendered friend Shahzadi, who without her guru's permission has taken the ultimate snip to become a women. Perhaps most unexpected of all however was the discovery by Mawaan of an area of the city where low paid straight men go cruising for sex - with men, on account that they cannot afford female prostitutes! Although how many of them are truly an absolute zero on the Kinsey scale, is open to question.

In short, what is evident throughout this insightful documentary is that a thriving gay scene - of sorts, does exist in Pakistan. Yet all is not a bed of pink roses, as a sickening video not televised, but shown to Mawaan bore witness to a fifteen-year-old boy who caught with his gay lover, was brutally attacked by a frenzied mob solely on account of his sexuality. What become of the young man after such a barbaric assault, is not known. But such footage is testament to the reason as to why Pakistan's gay scene will - almost certainly, forever remain underground, in a country where sex between men would appear to be, in truth - fairly common.

That the powers that be are aware of Pakistan's gay scene, but opt to turn a blind eye, so long as such remains underground, is all but clear. As too, it is all too apparent that those who commit acts of horrific violence in the name of IS, would not.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - none. 
Overall - file under ... 4 stars. 

a BBC3 presentation

Tuesday, 20th October, 2015 / 21:00 to 22:00.
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