"The nights are long without my beloved".
Called Mela Chiraghan or the Festival of Lights, the three-day celebration of Madhu Lal Hussain started today in Baghbanpura Lahore. The event's name comes from a large fire, alao, at the shrine where people throw candles, oils and terra-cotta lamps (chiragh) after making wishes, according to a report in The Express Tribune. The fire remains lit for the entire duration of the urs.
Reporting on the same-sex relationship of Madu Lal and Shah Husain, NPR's The World quoted Pakistani-American Professor Taymiya R. Zaman of University of San Francisco as saying: " You can't look at something that already existed and there is a shrine devoted to it and say it was unacceptable ".
|Drag Queen Ali Saleem (aka Begum Nawazish Ali)|
Anyone who's spent time in Pakistan knows that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) exist in the country, though this fact is not openly acknowledged or discussed for fear of backlash from conservatives. This has begun to change, however, with recent Supreme Court decisions acknowledging the rights of transgender community as equal citizens under Pakistan's constitution. The nation's highest court has ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure that transgenders are registered as voters and be allowed to contest for parliament in the upcoming elections.
Other than transgenders who are in the open, there are groups of gays and lesbians who meet secretly, according to the New York Times. There are anti-LGBT colonial era laws on the books, but such laws are not enforced. In fact, there is no active state-sponsored witch-hunt of such groups in Pakistan. Their situation is more akin to the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy which began in the Clinton Administration and remained in force until recently.
Pakistan is in the midst of big social changes internally. But, as the New York Times reported recently, anny attempt by outsiders to influence it invites a severe backlash. Here's an excerpt of the New York Times story:
Here's a trailer of "Zunn", a film on Pakistan's gay and transgender community:
Zunn: Showgirls of Pakistan | Official Trailer from ZUNN on Vimeo.
Social Change in Pakistan
Turkish Soaps and Schools in Pakistan
Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan
The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan
Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan
Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!
Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia
Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan
Upwardly Mobile Pakistan