Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pakistani Lesbians

Fatima leaned in to share a secret she had revealed to only a few other people before: "I'm lesbian," she said hesitantly.

"I think I knew since a very early age. It felt quite isolating. Like, I didn't see people or kids around me feel the same way."
In Pakistan, homosexuality is outlawed and in theory gays and lesbians can be jailed and fined. But in practice it's not the law they fear, Fatima told me at a cafe in the Pakistani city of Lahore. It's family and neighbours, whom she suspects murder many gays and lesbians in honour killings.

"From the time that I've known this about myself, every day that I've felt that I'd wish I was just like everybody else," Fatima says.
Her attraction to women became undeniable when she found herself in love with her best friend at high school.
After years of a secret romance, Fatima's girlfriend suddenly left her, saying there was no future for them in Pakistan. She married a man. Fatima says she can understand why her girlfriend made that decision.

"I mean, I think from the time that you're born you're socialized into believing that homosexuality is unnatural," she says. "It is a disease, and it is completely prohibited."
Shortly after, Fatima also married a man, in an attempt to conform to Pakistani values. But only a few months into her marriage she met another woman, Kiran, and the two fell in love.

Under the radar
After months of begging, Fatima's family finally agreed to let her get a divorce.
Fatima and Kiran now live together and they say that even though Pakistani society isn’t very open to gays and lesbians, as long as they stay under the radar, not many people will ever suspect that they are lesbians.
"Yeah, it's not within the realm of possibility," Fatima says. "People don't usually contemplate two women living together, that they are into each other. Good for us."
"Because in our society, women don't have sexual needs, desires, drives, whatever. And those that do, run brothels," Kiran says.
"Either you are a nice girl, or you are a fast girl. So if we are fast girls, it means that men come and visit us. If we are nice girls, it means that girls come and visit us, which works out."

Day Opening - February 3 - Year of the rabbit.

Asia rang in the Year of the Rabbit today with blasts of fireworks, colourful lion dances and prayers that the bunny will live up to its reputation for happiness and good fortune in 2011.

From Sydney to Singapore to Pyongyang, the Lunar New Year was marked by a thundering barrage of firecrackers, by family feasts, musical performances -- and rabbits galore.
In Beijing and Shanghai, as in cities and towns across China, fireworks lit up the sky at midnight as millions of revellers celebrated the arrival of the new year. The salvo rumbled on through the early hours of Thursday.
Fireworks are set off to ring in the year and ward off evil spirits but each year hundreds are reported hurt or killed in accidents across the nation of 1.3 billion people, and firefighters in tinder-dry Beijing were on high alert.
"We let off firecrackers to chase away the 'nian', a bad animal in Chinese legend. That way, it will not come and disturb you.... It's tradition," said Wang Kuang, one of many visiting the huge temple fair in Beijing's Ditan Park.
A five-star hotel in the northeastern city of Shenyang was gutted by fire early Thursday, in what police said was a blaze triggered by the festive explosives, Xinhua news agency reported. No one was hurt.
Snow and chilly weather across much of China did not dampen the cheer of an estimated 700 million merry-makers who had travelled home for the holiday or were on the move -- an annual exodus that swamps the nation's transport grid.
The holiday, which runs through next week, is the only time that many of the country's estimated 230 million migrant workers are able to visit their parents, husbands, wives or children.
Families typically gather for several days of feasting and partying, while youths receive cash gifts of red envelopes, or "hong bao". People also visit temples, burning incense and praying for health and wealth.
Amid public concerns about soaring food and housing prices, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged in his New Year's message this week that the country's leaders would work to keep inflation in check and curb real estate speculation.
The Internet is driving a Chinese New Year rabbit-related spending frenzy, with thousands of online discounts offered for everything from alcohol to food and trips.
People are also rushing to buy bunnies as pets, but animal rights activists fear the cuddly creatures could suffer from neglect or be abandoned once the novelty has worn off.
The rabbit, occupying the fourth position in the Chinese zodiac, is closely linked to the moon and symbolises happiness and good fortune.
In Taiwan, those hoping to try their luck early in the new year are snapping up lottery tickets, with the jackpot, due to be unveiled on Friday, expected to reach Tw$1 billion (US$33 million) after eight consecutive rollovers.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent Lunar New Year greetings, with Clinton pledging that Washington would "forge constructive relationships" throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
In Sydney, organisers were planning a vibrant street parade for Sunday night expected to draw 100,000, and dragon boat races in the city's Darling Harbour.
In South Korea, more than 31 million people, or 62 percent of the population, were expected to be on the move this week. Highways were jammed and flights sold out.
Relatives separated by the world's last Cold War frontier will gather near the border with North Korea for annual events publicising the plight of divided families.
In the North, where the holiday was only restored in 1989, leader Kim Jong-Il attended a Lunar New Year concert symbolising "the indomitable heroic spirit" of the communist state's army and people, official media said Thursday.
Many -- including brokerages -- are banking on the sensitive rabbit to usher in a calm 12 months after the Year of the Tiger brought a spate of deadly natural disasters to China such as earthquakes and mudslides.
But the bunnies in a video cartoon that went viral on the Chinese Internet were anything but tranquil.
Their revolt against brutal tiger overlords -- a thinly veiled swipe at China's communist rulers -- was a huge hit before the video was yanked by online censors.
And in Malaysia, flash floods have ruined the holiday mood, with key roads closed to traffic and the train service to Johor state and neighbouring Singapore cancelled.