I was born in a conservative, religion extremist, underdeveloped and underprivileged society, in Pakistan. The insular society that my family belonged to, predictably reflected the attitude of the ruling powers of Pakistan.

Pakistan has one of the world’s worst records in human rights, violence against minorities and is predisposed to show blatant disregard for human rights. There is a lot of violence and many people live in virtual slavery. There is no social debate or education about basic human rights, so the concept of individual rights that would encourage independent thought and debate is non existent

In my own home, as a young boy, I was raped by my cousin. I was only 9 years old. I was too young to be aware of sexual harassment and abuse that was being inflicted on me. This harassment by opportunist relatives and friends continued unabated. But inside me was a strong determination. I would get out of my family’s control and start living my life according to my terms.

After I left home, I sought out NGOs that I could volunteer for, and did work with several of them. It was only when I was in the presence of the people who worked at the NGOs, that I understood fully that in childhood, I had been raped and abused several times. I was just too unaware and uninformed to label my experience as the worst kind of sexual abuse.

My battle against rape, child abuse, sexual harassment and sexual reproductive health and rights had already started. I worked as a trainer, community representative, research expert and conducted surveys, spoke on the radio in appropriate programs, held workshops and went through training to prepare myself for the future that I had had created and wanted to manifest.

When I first started my journey on the path of Human Rights, LGBTQI and same sex marriage rights, it felt completely hopeless and demoralizing. I lived in a highly closed and conservative society that was intolerant towards religious and sexual minorities. I experienced myself continuously running into major obstacles and roadblocks. This is simply because I am gay and an atheist in a conservative society.

Now, I am in the position of a leader of the causes that are dear to my heart and I am finding ways to cope with the challenges and looking for opportunities that can provide solutions to the insurmountable obstacles in my crusade

When I tried to work for LGBTQI in my country, none of my peers agreed to join me. So I went ahead and began work along with some young LGBTQI activists. As a gay person, I have experienced persecution under the laws of the Government of Pakistan.

Nevertheless, I have focused on making the general public aware of human rights, advocacy of human rights and the to the general public of the importance of human rights and also the importance of advocacy for human rights which include the rights of the LGBTQI community, religious minorities and sexual minorities. This helped me foster tolerance for cross religious harmony and sexual diversity.

My work has been very diverse and I am committed to empowering, motivating and inspiring young vulnerable communities in community for their growth, development and sustainability. I will continue the fight for social and legislative justice for my community and for human rights in my country.

(Edited by: Kunal Mukherjee)

Sarmad Ali
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