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The Pink Purdah of Pakistan

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In Pakistan it must be easy for homosexual women to avoid punishments for adultery — penetration being essential for imposition of Section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Even then, Shumail and Shahzina, two women married to each other, are not to be envied. They have been sentenced to three years in jail.

Shumail Raj, 31, and Shahzina Tariq, 24, were cousins from Faisalabad, a city in Punjab. Shumail had gotten rid of her breasts and uterus in two sex change surgeries some 16 years ago. Although the operation was not done properly, Shumail at least had beard sprouting out on her face. The cousins later fell in love even as Shahzina was aware of Shumail's condition. They then hastily married in 2006 since Shahzina's family was planning an arranged marriage for her.

Shumail & Shahzina - women lovers of PakistanInevitably, relatives started harassing the newlyweds, asking for their marriage to be annulled on grounds that it was against Islam for women to wed each other. The couple, unfortunately, resorted to an action they would rue later. They approached the Lahore High Court this May to seek protection.

Things did not turn out as they might have wished. The court-appointed doctors examined Shumail and decided she was still a woman. The judge, Kahawaja Mohammed Sharif, sentenced them to three years imprisonment for lying, besides imposing a fine of 10,000 rupees ($200). However, the charge of committing the act of unnatural lust was dropped.

"Neither Islam nor our law allows marriages of the same sex. This mistake cannot simply be overlooked," Mr. Sharif said in his verdict. He also ordered a criminal investigation into the surgeons who operated on Shumail.

Stung by the verdict, the surprised couple, who had approached the court hoping for succour, clasped each other tightly before the police pulled them apart. They have now been separated. Shumail is undergoing punishment in the (women's) wing of Lahore's Central Jail, Kot Lakhpat, while Shahzia has been sent to Faislabad district prison.

"We're not homosexuals. Ours was a love marriage," a distraught Shahzia said before being led away from her lover.

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