Our last panel will focus on South Asian individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Historically, members of the LBGTQ+ communities have been ostracized and alienated from Pakistani society, forced onto the streets by the lack of opportunities and shunned by their owns families. LGBTQ+ activity is still considered illegal in Pakistan and the social taboo on the community is yet to be lifted. However, in 2009 the Supreme Court changed the course of the LGBTQ+ community by ruling in favour of civil rights for transsexual individuals. However, the impact of these political changes is difficult to trace on a social level as it is difficult to ensure that these changes are being enforced and respected. Therefore, Soch is proud to present Invisible Presences: the struggle for LGBTQ rights in South Asia to further discuss the vulnerable position of such individuals in South Asian society and to debate what the future holds for LGBTQ+ individuals in South Asian nations.
UN Representative for Muslim Progressive Voices
Omair Paul is a Pakistani American born and raised in New York City. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having majored in Social and Cultural Anthropology with a minor in South Asian studies. His focus was on history, culture, theology, philosophy, linguistics, and gender/queer theories. He is currently a Human Rights M.A. candidate in the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University in New York.
He assumed the positons of United Nations Representative for Muslims for Progressive Values and United States Representative for the Youth Advocacy Network of Pakistan in 2014. His focal areas of work and research pertain to gender equality and women's empowerment, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia, LGBTQ rights and non-discrimination on the basis of SOGI, defusing radical and fundamentalist cultural and/or theological ideologies, and youth empowerment and engagement. He is currently engaged in affirming the human rights approach to policy-level advocacy for the aforementioned subjects.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Artist & Activist
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is an artist, performer, zombie drag queen and curator of mixed Pakistani and Lebanese descent. His work explores complex identity politics formed by centuries of colonialism and exacerbated by contemporary international politics. Bhutto explores the politics of queerness, its intersections with Islam and how it exists in a constant liminal and non-aligned space. Bhutto is currently an artist in residence at SAFEHouse for the Arts, curatorial resident at SOMArts Cultural Center and is a fall artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Bhutto is currently based in the Bay Area from where he received his MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in the summer of 2016. Today he works as an art teacher, community arts facilitator and part time unicorn.