It is Pakistan so there are only so many options. It’s either a Muslim mosque, Muslim tomb or an internet cafe. And the internet cafes have limited space.
But the BBC does report that Karachi, Pakistan is a gay paradise. If you overlook the death by stoning provision of the Islamic Hudood ordinances, which the BBC tastefully does, blaming the British colonial era for criminalizing homosexuality and implying that prison sentences are rarely handed out. Left unmentioned is that this is mainly because the “openly gay” men who show up in reports like these come from the upper classes.
Danyaal, as he’s asked to be known, is a 50-something businessman who lives in an affluent part of Karachi, and uses his smartphone to organise Karachi’s gay party scene.
“These days there are smartphone apps that use GPS to tell you how close you are to another gay person with an online profile. There are thousands of gay men online in Pakistan at any one time.”
The party scene is big – so big, he jokes, that he rarely gets time to himself. “If you want sex too, it’s a gay man’s paradise. If you want a relationship, that may be more difficult.”
Where is the Mecca of this gay sex paradise? As close to Mecca as anyone in Karachi can get. An Islamic shrine.
Sex between men occurs in some very public places – including, surprisingly, Karachi’s busiest shrine.
Families go to the Abdullah Shah-Ghazi shrine to honour the holy man buried there and to ask for God’s blessings, but it is also Karachi’s biggest cruising ground.
Every Thursday evening, as the sun sets, men from across the city gather there. A tightly packed circle is formed and those in the centre of the circle are groped by those on the periphery.
To outsiders it looks like a writhing mass of men huddling around one another. Some even describe it as a “mysterious religious ceremony”. For participants, it’s anonymous group sex.
Who says Islam is homophobic? It has its mysterious religious ceremonies.
“We get important people – police, army officers and ministers too,” says one masseur, Ahmed. He claims to have slept with more than 3,000 men during his working life – despite having two wives and eight children.
One of his wives, Sumera, wears a burka and the niqab, but she has no objection to her husband’s chosen profession and wishes more people would keep an open mind. “I know he has sex. No problem. If he doesn’t work how will the kids eat?”
Maybe he could have fewer wives and then he wouldn’t need to worry about infecting them with diseases. But clearly Pakistani schools don’t cover that in Home Ec.
“There was an instance where two boys were caught having sex in a field,” says Iqbal. “The family tried to bribe the police with money because they didn’t want the story going public. When the police wouldn’t back down the family asked for one detail to be changed – they wanted their son to be presented as the active sexual partner. For them, their son being passive would be even more shameful.”
That is why rape is semi-legal for the man in Muslim countries, but a crime for women. It’s also why the dancing boys are abused in Afghanistan.