For Hamza Baloch, Grindr was a life-changer.
As a gay man in Pakistanan Islamic republic where homosexuality carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, his means of meeting others in the LGBT community had always been shrouded in secrecy and risk and kept within known safe spaces. But the arrival of dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder in Pakistan about four years ago brought with it a small revolution among young people across the spectrum of sexuality.
Here they could connect and meet people on their own terms, with an honesty about their sexuality that was ly taboo and dangerous. The apps proved popular: Tinder has been downloadedtimes in Pakistan in the last 13 months.
He emphasised that Grindr was not just the preserve of upper- and middle-class people in cities, and said he had seen the app used by gay and trans people even in remote rural communities in Sindh province, for example.
It is part of what has been seen as a move by the prime minister, Imran Khan, to appease the conservative religious factions who wield enormous amounts of power and influence in Pakistan. But the apps have also been met with disapproval over heterosexual meetups, particularly for women from more conservative households who are discouraged from dating on their own terms and instead are expected to enter into an arranged marriage with someone selected by their family.
The apps were not without their dangers. After an incident in in which a year-old man killed three gay men he had lured from LGBT Facebook s, claiming to be stopping the spread of evil, the LGBT community was warned to avoid anonymous meetings with people through apps and social media.
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In order to protect their identities, LGBT people often did not post identifying photos on their Tinder and Grindr profiles. While small groups and communities of LGBT people had existed long before the apps arrived in Pakistan, Tinder and Grindr had opened up the opportunity to meet people who might be less comfortable attending LGBT meetups or who were still exploring their sexuality.
Neesha spoke of two university friends who had not known the other was gay, both too fearful to speak openly about it, until they saw each other on Tinder. They subsequently began a relationship.
The impact of banning the apps was not only felt in the LGBT community. This article is more than 11 months old.
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Dating app ban is move to appease conservative factions and of weakness, say critics. Fri 4 Sep Pakistan blocks 'immoral' Tinder, Grindr and other apps.
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