News (USA)

He tried to open Pakistan’s first gay nightclub. He got sent to a mental hospital.

A trans Pride flag is flown at the International Women's Day March in Karachi, Pakistan on March 8, 2021
A trans Pride flag is flown at the International Women's Day March in Karachi, Pakistan on March 8, 2021 Photo: Shutterstock

A Pakistani man who tried to open the country’s first gay club has been sent to a mental hospital. His friends say that they are very worried about his safety but have been restricted from visiting him or learning more information.

“I do not know about his well-being for many days,” they said to The Telegraph. They also said that they had “tried to find out about him a couple of times but without success.”

The man declined to give his identity to The Telegraph. He had applied to open up the club in Abbottabad, which is a very conservative region of Pakistan.

Gay sex is illegal in Pakistan and punishable by up to two years in prison, though it rarely is. Homosexuality is looked down upon, which makes being openly gay difficult. According to his friend, the man’s sexuality was known in his community, but there had never been any issues.

The friend said that the applicant is now “vulnerable” and “anything could happen to him at any time.”

In his application, the detained man said that the club would provide “great convenience and resource for many homosexual, bisexual and even some heterosexual people residing in Abbottabad in particular, and in other parts of the country in general.”

The application stated that in “the envisaged gay club, tentatively to be called Lorenzo gay club, there would be no gay (or non-gay) sex (other than kissing).”

The application also said that “A clearly visible notice on the wall would warn: no sex on premises. This would mean that no legal constraints (even obsolete ones like [anti-sodomy] PPC section 377) would be flouted on the premises.”

The application was leaked to social media, sparking outrage from politicians and locals alike. Rightwing Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PATY) leader Naseer Khan Nazir warned that there would be “very severe consequences” if the club were granted permission to open and that another member of Parliament threatened to “douse the building with petrol and set it on fire.”

The Telegraph tried to visit the detained man at his home but learned he was sent to the Sarhad hospital for psychiatric disease on May 9.

Before being sent to the hospital, the detained man said, “I talk about human rights, and I want everyone’s human rights to be defended.”

He said he planned to ask officials why they had rejected his application if it were to be rejected. In some Indian states, live-in relations are allowed between gay couples. Last year the Supreme Court did not legalize gay marriage, instead leaving it up to parliament.

“I have started the struggle for the rights of the most neglected community in Pakistan and I will raise my voice in every forum. If the authorities refuse, then I will approach the court and I hope that like the Indian court, the Pakistani court will rule in favor of gay people” the applicant told The Telegraph in an interview before he was detained.

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