There is no dearth of topics for discussion in Pakistan. Look at the line up of current favourite issues: power struggle between the judiciary and executive; political tussle between the opposition — which wants a fair interim government for holding elections — and the government; battle for political and cultural space between religious obscurantist and liberals; partial siege of the capital by “Masjid-e-Qabza Group;” Karachi killings; Talibanisation in the North; and bomb blasts in Balochistan in the West. As if all this was not enough a social issue of same sex marriage has been added to the list.
While much has been written on the political issues, let’s look at the same sex marriage issue which has been brought out of the closet by Shumail & Shazina case filed by her vengeful father. Just because he could not tolerate his daughter’s independent decision he brought the whole story in the glaring light of the media. So we cannot say that the couple was making a brave gay statement. It seems they arranged to get married in naivety, not realizing that this was not allowed under Pakistani law, religion and culture. Unwittingly they have exposed the hypocrisy of our society.
It would have been extremely difficult for the vengeful father to challenge if they had not declared their ‘marriage.’ In this country while the self-styled guardians of the society do not allow an unmarried man and woman to live together, they have usually no problems in accepting the people of same sex living with each other. There are so many such couples in the country, the only difference is one doesn’t know about their sexual relations, if there are any. Even if people suspect homosexuality, they are usually decent enough not to mention it. In fact in a society like ours when it comes to sexual relations, the reaction is to exhibitionism. What you do in the confines of your bedroom is usually not challenged by the society.
But that’s not all we know that many people are bi-sexual in segregated societies like ours. They have homosexual relations till they get married. Some regions of Pakistan are well known for this although they follow religious rituals more rigorously than most of Pakistanis from other regions. Nobody takes them to the court because such people are still in the closet fearing the society reprimand.
Or come to think of it two different set of moral values are existing in our society. It is different with the westernized elite where many people are out of the closet and have no bones about their sexual preferences. There are couples of well known personalities, who are living together as partners and it is no secret. The alter-ego show is one of the most watched talk show in Pakistan where even political personalities are guests. Then there is middle class which is conservative and sticks to the traditional moral and social values. Among the have nots though we hear a lot about honour killing when it comes to heterosexual relations, it is difficult to recall such a strong reaction in homosexuality cases. Then the question is why this dichotomy in our value system? Why we have two different Pakistans?
To understand this we have to refer back to sociology – the concept of moral ‘Zeitgeist.’ This German term means: the spirit of time; the characteristics of an age or generation. Sociologists have maintained that moral and social value change with time – with generations. They are not static, because social super structure is relative to the level of economic and technological development of a particular society.
You don’t need the time machine to see the strength of this observation. Slavery was not considered bad in the 19th century, today it is abhorred. Women were not considered equal and had no voting rights in many societies (Switzerland gave it in 1976 and Kuwait accepted it only last year), but today any discrimination on the basis of sex is looked down upon. Having sexual relations with concubines or maids was accepted in many societies and scriptures, now it is sexual exploitation.
According to Old Testament when was brought to him with the charge that he was working on the Sabbath, ‘Moses ordered the man shall surely be put to death: the entire congregation shall stone him without the camp.’ Surely, the man was stoned to death for collecting firewood’s on the Sabbath day. But Jesus who grew up on the same doctrine said in a similar case: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath.’ In tribal FATA they stoned a couple to death last month and they considered it right, in industrialized urban Pakistan it was considered barbaric.
The section of society which is exposed and linked to individualistic capitalist economy in Pakistan is slowly and gradually changing its social and moral values without even realizing it. The younger the generation the faster is the change. Rural population which has been left behind in the race of development has different set of values. There are sections of society living in the present time changed by the globalisation, and then we have people living in pre-independence time zone. It all depends on how much the development and its fruits have reached you. Influence of religion is strong on our society, but it is equally challenged by the globalisation deluge. This is what I call two Pakistans. But hang there is another one which is in transition in the time machine is half way to the present.
Taking the realistic view of the moral and social values, it can thus be said that the honourable court has come too harshly on Shazina and Shumail just for speaking a lie. Off course it is perjury but their circumstances should have been given due weightage as justice has to be performed with mercy. (firstname.lastname@example.org)