The Gay community in Pakistan appears to be in serious trouble with regard to a trip made to Nepal by three transgenders from the country, bringing to a halt, an eight-year-old health program for meant for the country's homosexuals. The three gays belonged to the Lahore-based NGO Vision that operates the Nayab Health Services project for masseurs who have sex with male clients and transgenders.
Helped by Britain's Naz Foundation International, Vision began a drop-in center in Lahore, operating from the backroom of a teashop frequented by zenanas to test them for sexually transmitted diseases and counseling. Vision's work gathered momentum after research in 1999 in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Murree of masseurs revealed that a large number had unprotected anal sex with male clients as well as the zenanas.
The zenanas of Pakistan survive mostly by selling sex, which makes them vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, police harassment and rape. The problem began when three zenanas from Vision's Nayab Health Services project and a lawyer came here earlier this month to network with a similar community, the metis of Nepal, who too are transgenders and regard themselves as women.
The visit was intended to help the team see how Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal's only gay rights organization functions, and to lay down a framework for an international conference of such marginalized people scheduled in March.
However, Vision says the trip turned sour when the three zenanas were presented at a press conference here without their lawyer and without the NGO's knowledge. The zenanas are reported to have told the media that they are persecuted in Pakistan, which amounts to treason in Pakistan. Vision is expecting a backlash to this incident in Pakistan.
Fearing a backlash in Pakistan, Vision said it was suspending the Nayab Health Services project in the country. On an average, about 100 zenanas are treated by Vision in Pakistan every month.