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Jailed Pakistani
trans man and partner plead to be reunited

Jailed Pakistani
trans man and partner plead to be reunited

A Pakistani transsexual man and his partner, recognized as the country's first publicly acknowledged same-sex couple and jailed on a judge's order in Lahore, pleaded Friday to be allowed to live together, a request that seemed unlikely to be granted in a country where even discussing such issues is taboo.

Shumail Raj, 31, who was born female but had two operations to remove her breasts and uterus 16 years ago, and Shahzina Tariq, 26, face imprisonment for lying to a court about Raj's biological gender.

Raj first brought the case to the attention of the Lahore high court, appealing for protection from harassment by their relatives.

But the couple were arrested Sunday, days after Raj claimed before a judge to be male and Tariq endorsed the statement. An independent panel of doctors ruled after tests that Raj was still a woman.

The couple initially said they wed to protect Tariq from being sold into marriage to pay off her uncle's gambling debts. They admitted last week they had lied about Raj's biological sex because they were in love and wanted to live together.

Tariq's family has repeatedly asked the judge to annul the marriage, saying it goes against both Islam and Pakistan's laws against same-sex unions.

On Friday, Raj and Tariq faced Judge Kahawaja Mohammed Sharif, who set May 28 for the next hearing. Sharif earlier warned the couple they could face charges of committing an act of unnatural lust, which carries a penalty of two years to life in prison and perjury, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years.

Raj and Tariq spoke with reporters after the hearing.

"Please help us; we love each other and want to live together," Raj said. Tariq made the same plea, saying: "Help us in the name of God. Don't separate us like this."

Raj has said his breasts and uterus were surgically removed at age 15 after his voice changed and he began to grow facial hair. But the doctors ruled the operations were not complete and that he was still a woman.

The couple's lawyer, Sajjad Rana, told the court Friday that Raj wants to go abroad for a third operation and is optimistic that the third one would be successful.

The vast majority of Pakistan's 165 million people are Muslims, many of them with conservative values. Topics such as homosexuality and sex reassignment are largely taboo. (Asif Shahzad, AP)

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