Bail for 'same-sex' couple in Pakistan; Supreme Court suspends jail sentence

By Agencies
July 1, 2007

Islamabad - The Supreme Court on Thursday granted bail to a 'same-sex' couple and suspended a verdict handed down by the Lahore High Court. The high court had declared the marriage un-Islamic and sentenced the two to three years in jail.

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Lahore judge jails same-sex couple

Accepting their appeal, a bench of the Supreme Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas and Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan ordered release of Shamail Raj, currently in the Kot Lakhpat jail of Lahore, and Shehzina Tariq, in the Faisalabad district jail. Their release is subject to surety bonds of Rs50,000 each.

The couple, through a joint petition in the apex court, had contended that lifestyle of Shamail over the past 12 years and 'his' beard and moustache provided sufficient grounds for exoneration on the charges of perjury.

"This is a case of abuse of law by the high court since the couple was convicted without framing of charges," the legal counsel for the couple, Dr Babar Awan, argued before the bench.

On May 28, the Lahore High Court had jailed the first publicly-acknowledged same-sex couple of Pakistan for three years and fined them Rs10,000 each for perjury, declaring the marriage un-Islamic.

Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif of the high court had observed that he was issuing a lenient sentence, much below the seven-year maximum term, because the couple had apologised for their behaviour.

Shamail Raj, 31, who was born female but had two operations to remove her breasts and uterus 16 years ago, and Shehzina Tariq who created waves by raising issues of homosexuality and trans-sexuality, had married last year but approached the high court for protection against harassment by Shehzina's relatives. The court, however, accused them of lying about Shamail Raj's gender.

In the Supreme Court, the couple's counsel pleaded that the lives of his clients were in danger because of the scandal, despite the fact that no law in Pakistan considered living together by same-sex people a crime.

He said that in its order, the high court had assumed the functions of ministries of interior and law by directing that the couple's name be put on the exit control list.

"This is a case of reassignment of gender," the counsel said.

Earlier, the report of a special medical board which had examined Shamail Raj suggested that 'he' was a well-built person, with moustaches and beard and a hoarse voice.

The couple in their petition had pleaded that they could live together with their free will and volition even without entering into marriage.

The petitioners said the single judge in the chambers had not considered the peculiar circumstances of the case and had arbitrarily sentenced them to three-year jail term.


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