Young gay Pakistanis are determined to celebrate their sexuality despite prohibitions on homosexuality, it has been revealed.

The historic Basant festival, which took place in Lahore last weekend, attracted revellers from a variety of communities and just days after President Pervez Musharraf boasted of empowering minorities, gay revellers proudly joined in with the celebrations.

Gay men, mainly in their mid 20s, partied on rooftops and on the streets in dresses with Bollywood music in the background. One of the organisers told the Guardian, “We just want to have fun.”

Gay groups say their communities are doing well with subtle acceptance from society. A gay man from Karachi said: “In a bizarre way homosexuality is condemned but not opposed, there is an indulgence here, a cultural ability to live and let live.”

Homosexuality is rarely discussed in Pakistan and the punishment for sodomy is life imprisonment, and sex outside marriage is punishable by death.

Many Pakistani gay men are happy with the lack of debate. A gay man in Islamabad said: “If we were being actively persecuted, then we might fight in public.”