Concealing Sexuality in Pakistan

The Gay International and Bio-Power: Pakistan’s Upper-Class Gay Community

Reviewed by Jenny Li
October 7, 2014

The LGBT rights movement has swept through the Western world at breakneck speed. Similar campaigns for gay rights, however, have not been met with the same ready acceptance in other areas of the world. Areesha Banglani’s, “The Gay International and Bio-Power: Pakistan’s Upper Class Gay Community,” describes the implications of homosexuality in Pakistan, as well as its integration within structures of self-reinforcing bio-political control. Her dual-faceted examination of the issue inspects problems pertaining to both bio-power and homosexuality as a Western import.

The connection between sexual identity and bio-power revolves around the taboo of homosexuality. Almost paradoxically, while same sex acts occur very widely, self-identification as gay or bisexual is greeted with violent disapproval. It is therefore not the engagement in homosexual activities that is wrong; it is accepting these activities as a fundamental part of one’s identity that is so blasphemous. This radical rejection of homosexuality is codified within the Pakistani Penal Code because it violates the tenets of Sharia. Such suppression of sexual identification has led to the formation of various covert groups within Pakistan for the expression of homo or bisexuality.

Through her investigation of Group X, an online social media group for gay males, as well as Gay International, Banglani is able to peel back each layer of the sexual identity taboo. She finds that although the formation of such groups garners greater visibility for homosexuals within Pakistan, this is not necessarily advantageous. Radical individuals have turned to measures such as physical violence and murder in order to punish those that have violated Pakistani religious law. Pakistan has become a country in which overzealous rejection of gay identities has become embedded within bio political power structures. That is, citizens have willfully accepted the idea that homosexuality is a form of cultural terrorism imposed by the Western world upon Pakistan, that homosexuality is an attack upon Pakistani identity. Bio-power therefore drives these citizens to extremes of cruelty, leading to the self-reinforcement of continued abuse of individuals that don’t abide by sexuality norms.

Of additional significance is the fact that manifestations of this rejection of homosexuality most commonly occur toward lower class citizens that cannot afford to be sheltered from harm. In the majority of cases, the impoverished groups that desire neither homosexual identities nor visibility are attacked for engaging in acts of sodomy. A strange demarcation therefore exists between the rich and poor in respect to sexual identity. The rich are presented with a very limited Westernized image of what it means to be gay. They possess geographic mobility as well as the resources to hide themselves when danger arises. But those of the lower class looking to incorporate homosexuality into their identities cannot often find a sense of cohesion within the small scope of Western homosexuality. They are left behind to suffer acts of punishment from their fellow citizens and are truly marginalized.

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