Zayna (real name is kept anonymous,) aged 40, grew up in Pakistan before she came over to Manchester, UK. Her life in Pakistan consisted of humiliating beatings and threats, due to her sexuality.
Speaking about her father’s reaction when she told him, “My father came upstairs and wanted to kill me and beat me like anything. He told me how to behave. That was the first time I felt unsafe in my own home.”
Her father passed away when she was in her early 20s, and she spent years looking after her unwell mother, who eventually died of lung cancer. During this period, she was romantically involved with a teacher at an Islamic school in Pakistan.
When the school found out, they threatened both females with police action to either leave or face arrest as prostitutes. Zayna was studying a PhD in chemistry, but the school kicked her out before she could finish her course. She said: “I was born a Muslim and I want to die a Muslim. But if someone wants to kill me then why? Just because I’m lesbian?
“I am a strong brave person but so many people like me don’t have that courage. I realised I need to come out and tell everyone about my story.” Homosexuality is looked down upon in Pakistan and the country’s law states there are criminal penalties for same-sex sexual acts, although acts of homosexuality are rarely prosecuted.
The penalty for same-sex relations is a fine, two years’ to life imprisonment,
or both. Zayna now works in a senior role at a management company and has now been
settled in the UK for seven years. She also joined LGBT International and the Birmingham-based LGBT group, Finding A Voice. “I now have peace of mind that no one is going to kill me,” she said.