LONDON: Two former Birmingham students have defied death threats to make legal history by becoming the first Muslim lesbian couple to get married in a civil ceremony in the UK.
Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, from Pakistan, tied the knot at a registration office in front of their solicitors and two Pakistani friends earlier this month.
The couple then immediately applied for political asylum in the UK claiming that their lives would be in danger if they were to return to their native Pakistan.
Relatives of the couple said the women had received death threats both in the UK and from opponents in their native Pakistan.
Being a lesbian, gay or transsexual person is a considered a taboo vice in parts of society of Pakistan and gay rights are close to non-existent.
According to Pakistani law, same-sex sexual acts are illegal and go against Islamic teachings.
Those who flout the law are often targeted and in the most extreme cases homosexuals have been murdered.
The country does not have civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of a person’s sexuality and same-sex marriages and civil unions in Pakistan have no legal recognition.
But the potential threat to their lives didn’t stop Ms Kausar and Ms Kamar from going ahead with their marriage at Leeds Registry Office.
Wearing a traditional white bridal dress, the couple told the Registrar that they had known each other for around three years after moving to Birmingham from Pakistan on student visas.
They said they had later began living together as a couple in South Yorkshire for nearly a year.
Ms Kausar, a master’s degree holder in economics from Punjab University, and her new partner both came to the UK to study business and health care management.
Ms Kausar, originally from Lahore, said: “This country allows us rights and it’s a very personal decision that we have taken. It’s no one’s business as to what we do with our personal lives.
“The problem with Pakistan is that everyone believes he is in charge of other people lives and can best decide about the morals of others but that’s not the right approach and we are in this state because of our clergy, who have hijacked our society which was once a tolerant society and respected individuals freedoms.”
Ms Kamar, originally from the Mirpur region of Azad Kashmir, said she loves her partner and described her as her “soul mate.”
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 in the UK gives same-sex couples rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage.
A relative said: “The couple did not have an Islamic marriage ceremony, known as a nikah, as they could not find an imam to conduct what would have been a controversial ceremony.
“They have been very brave throughout as our religion does not condone homosexuality. The couple have had their lives threatened both here and in Pakistan and there is no way they could ever return there.”
Even the Registrar at Leeds initially told the couple that he understood that homosexuality was against their religion and that they should spend a few days to consider their decision.
Many scholars of Sharia, or Islamic law, interpret homosexual activity as a punishable offence as well as a sin.
There is no specific punishment prescribed, however, and this is usually left to the discretion of the local authorities on Islam. In extreme cases couples found engaging in homosexual activity are sentenced to death.
Some British Pakistani religious scholars have objected to the union and said that Islam only recognises marriage and partnership between a man and woman and that all other forms of union are not recognised in the religion.
However, they added that the UK allows people choices they make about their life and that it was an individual’s personal choice to pick their life partners.
Tris Reid-Smith, editor of the Gaystarnews, said it was “highly likely” that the couple would face persecution if they were to return to Pakistan.
He said: “This appears to be a landmark event and I don’t know of any other Muslim lesbians to have been married in the UK.
“Pakistan is by no means the worst country in the world to be a homosexual but certainly it is entirely likely that the couple would not be safe to return to Pakistan where the risk of persecution by the authorities, family members and neighbours is very high.”
(Courtesy Birmingham Mail)