Pakistani Lesbian Couple Wed in UK
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Pakistani Lesbian Couple Wed in UK


Two young Pakistani women have married in a civil partnership in the UK, becoming the first Muslim lesbians to wed. The news has shocked the conservative masses in their native Pakistan, where LGBT groups are shunned by both law and custom, albeit largely left alone provided they retain a low profile.

It was only in 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Numerous other countries – most in the West – followed suit and accepted homosexuality as a matter of orientation. Some began to legislate against discrimination based on sexual orientation. But homosexuality remains strictly taboo in most of the Middle East and Arab world, where it is considered unnatural under Islam, the dominant religion.

In Pakistan, despite strict laws, there is a quiet tolerance of gays, at least until they attract significant media attention. One example is the late Pakistani-American poet Ifti Nasim, who was the first Pakistani to come out, a decision that led him to stay in the U.S. where he knew he would have fewer problems with acceptance. Still, the Pakistani literary community expressed respect when Nasim died in 2011.

A Pakistani couple jailed in 2007 was more unfortunate. In this case, the husband had undergone two sex change operations, although doctors acting on behalf of the court ruled that he was still a woman (full beard notwithstanding). What was interesting, though, was that the court opted to hand down a lighter perjury conviction – on the grounds that the couple had lied about the husband’s status – rather than applying the tougher homosexuality provisions of the penal code.

The Pakistani newlyweds in the UK – Rehana Kausar (34) and Sobia Kamar (29) – have applied for political asylum, claiming that they fear persecution in their native country. Asylum could ultimately lead to citizenship.

That possibility has raised a few eyebrows in Pakistan, where some skeptics have noted that civil partnership is not an uncommon choice for those aiming to achieve UK citizenship. Since the 2005 London bombings, the path to UK citizenship has become much more difficult for Pakistanis.

While the LGBT community has welcomed the event as a milestone, Islamic scholars in the UK have been cautious in their choice of words. While they proclaim marriage to be between a man and a woman only, they concede that UK laws view things differently. Nonetheless, the couple were denied the chance to marry in a traditional nikah ceremony.

Kausar and Kamar managed to overcome that obstacle. Whether their marriage helps bring the LGBT community in Pakistan out from the shadows remains to be seen.

Malik Ayub Sumbal is an award-winning journalist based in Islamabad. He tweets @ayubsumbal

June 15, 2013 at 02:38

And I'm sure every couple who gets married in a Christian ceremony attends church every Sunday, sends their children to faith-based schools, never disobeys a single one of the 10 Commandments, and gives ten percent of their earnings to the Church. Yet they still consider themseles Christians. You literally know nothing about these women except that they're Pakistani muslims. Who are you to ask these questions?

June 12, 2013 at 03:56

They're not married, or wed. Sadly, the law states clearly that it is illegal to "pretend" that a civil partnership is the same as a marriage by using such terms. It's obvious that marriage equality is the only way to ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

As to legal loopholes, it's extremely difficult for immigrants to apply for asylum (even harder to get it), and difficult to get a civil partnership or marriage, so they've clearly jumped through all the right hoops to get to where they are. Anyone who thinks it's an easy route to residency or citizenship is not in possession of the full facts.

I couldn't possibly comment on whether or not they're "real" Muslims. As far as I know, neither can anyone else commenting on this site. The issue of their faith is between them and their God. My hunch is that God is capable of infinitely more decency than the commenters so far.

June 11, 2013 at 16:44

Well there we have it, it was the next ‘expected’ immigration loophole. Watch all the bi sexuals now become gay, get married, even to their own sibling’s (wouldn’t be surprised) – anything for a visa and British citizenship.

Theresa May had better fix this particular asylum loophole before it gets out of hand.

Its a personal choice to marry to the same gender, so anyone doing so knows the risks involved, ‘tough!’ Deal with the consequences. .. no need for the uk to take on more parasites.

June 11, 2013 at 01:56

So, they're labled as a lesbian muslim couple. Honestly, how is that possibe? If they were to do this in Pakistan, they would have been executed on the spot. Curious, do you think they pray 5 times a day? Have they both made the trek to Mecca and Medina? Are they good followers of the tenants of the Prophet, PBUH? I'm kinda thinking no on all these questions. So again, how are these two "muslim lesbians" when the faith calls for their heads?  No disrespect, just curious.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief