The viewing of LGBT support website Queer Pakistan has been banned from from within Pakistan by the government authority responsible for internet filtering, and the site’s management have been forced to replicate the site on other domains.
The order to block the website was executed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on 24 September. The QueerPK team has mirrored the entire website onto a new domain name Humjins.com, and diverted all traffic within seven minutes.
“This is completely illegal and unconstitutional ban depriving a sizeable community from the right to information…” said Fakhir, the founder of the project. PTA has the authority to assess and blanket ban any website that it deems ‘blasphemous’ and ‘pornographic’ and has already banned thousands of websites including YouTube which has been banned since September last year.
“QueerPK has neither blasphemous not pornographic content…” explained Fakhir. “…this was an anonymous website with decent informational content covering topics about safe-sex and other issues faced by country’s LGBT population and the government couldn’t tolerate it…, imagine what would happen if we started talking about these topics openly”, he continued, pointing towards the prevailing situation in Pakistan where discussing sexuality is still a taboo subject.
“But clearly the government would rather have the MSM and LGBT population as vulnerable community on high risk than to let them educate themselves… government provides no support ” he went on.
Pakistan is among the list of notorious countries that ban and censor the content without any accountability. The country has already banned several progressive voices or those that spoke for the rights of minorities. It is also worth mentioning here that only last month, PTA spokesperson Kamran Ali said about QueerPK: “ “…the government was already examining the content of the website and would block it if found objectionable.”
“We can block all websites with either blasphemous or pornographic content under the law,””
“We are determined to create as many mirrors/clones of the website as necessary…, we won’t let PTA get away with this without a fight!” said Fakhir explaining about future strategies to deal with censorship.
Punishments for homosexuality vary in Pakistan with convictions ranging from 2 years to life imprisonment and in some cases death, which highlights the risk of providing such a service. The country cracks down harshly on what is considered objectionable material and strong censorship laws are in place.
Despite the homophobia ingrained in Pakistani law it has been reported in the past that Pakistan leads the world in online gay porn searches and Pakistan is rumoured to have a large underground LGBT movement that is secretly campaigning for an advancement of rights in the country.