For Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, the civil ceremony in the United Kingdom was enough for them to be happy. The two former students said their vows at the registry office in Leeds earlier this month right before they applied for asylum in the UK.
The two women are from Pakistan, and they and their relatives have received death threats both in the UK and in Pakistan. In their native country, homosexuality is illegal. The couple face a minimum of two years in prison in Pakistan if they actually make it to court. Odds on are that they would never face a magistrate, but would be murdered long before then. Life for most lesbians and gays in Pakistan is incredibly difficult and dangerous.
The two met while studying in Birmingham three years ago. They have been living together in South Yorkshire for about the last year. Kausar holds a master’s degree in economics from Punjab University and is originally from Lahore.
She told the Sunday Mercury that “This country allows us rights and it’s a very personal decision that we have taken. It’s no one’s business as to what we do with our personal lives. The problem with Pakistan is that everyone believes he is in charge of other people lives and can best decide about the morals of others but that’s not the right approach. We are in this state because of our clergy, who have hijacked our society, which was once tolerant and respected individuals’ freedoms.”
Homosexuality has been formally illegal in Pakistan since 1860. The laws were put into place by Pakistan’s then British colonial rulers.
The Independent noted that:
In recent years in Britain, some Muslim gay and lesbian couples have opted for a nikah, an Islamic matrimonial contract, which is officially the reserve of heterosexuals. These services, conducted in Arabic with additional duas – prayers – are not recognised in the UK unless accompanied by a civil ceremony. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in the Islamic faith and the notion of same-sex marriage is abhorrent to many Muslims.
According to the relatives of one of the women “The couple did not have an Islamic marriage ceremony, known as a nikah, as they could not find an imam to conduct what would have been a controversial ceremony. They have been very brave throughout as our religion does not condone homosexuality. The couple have had their lives threatened both here and in Pakistan and there is no way they could ever return there.”
Deputy Chief Executive for Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, stated “There is a very cautious step towards social visibility for some gay men in Pakistan but lesbians are completely invisible. Pakistan is not necessarily a safe place for couples to be open about their love.”