Pakistan has banned dating apps Grindr and Tinder as part of a crackdown on “immoral” content in the Muslim-majority nation.
The country’s Telecommunications Authority blocked the apps in order to curb the “negative effects of immoral/indecent content streaming,” the Hindustan Times reports.
Grindr is one of the largest dating apps for gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, while Tinder has issued regular updates to make the app more LGBTQ-friendly.
According to data from analytics firm Sensor Tower, Tinder had been downloaded more than 440,000 times in Pakistan in the past 12 months, with Grinder downloaded an estimated 300,000 times in the same period.
LGBTQ people currently lack any legal recognition in Pakistan, often face social pressures that would not apply to their cisgender or heterosexual counterparts, and Pakistani media frequently censors LGBTQ content and news stories.
Same-sex sexual relations are illegal in the country, and punishable with up to life imprisonment.
However, since 2018 transgender people have been allowed to self-identify as their preferred gender identity, and may update government-issued IDs to reflect their gender identity.
The country also outlawed discrimination based on gender identity in employment and public accommodations in 2018, though no such protections exist for other LGBTQ people.
Pakistan’s crackdown on content also extended to social media platform TikTok, which was given a “final warning,” and ordered to “put in place a comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity and immorality through its social media application.”
Video sharing site YouTube was similarly ordered to “immediately block vulgar, indecent, immoral, nude and hate speech content for viewing in Pakistan.”
Pakistan published a new set of rules governing media censorship earlier this year, dubbed the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020.
Per Yale Law School, the new rules “aim at curbing harmful online content, such as hate speech, harassment, and misinformation.”
“However, the breadth of the Rules’s restrictions, and the intrusive requirements that they place on social media platforms, would severely threaten online freedom of expression in Pakistan,” Wikimedia Fellow Michael Karanicolas wrote.
In 2018, transgender news anchor Marvia Malik made history by becoming the first out trans person to deliver a news broadcast. Malik said at the time that she wanted to help her fellow trans Pakistanis feel accepted.
“Everywhere we go, a transgender person is looked down upon,” Malik said. “But there’s nothing we can’t do; we’re educated, have degrees, but no opportunities, no encouragement. This is what I want to change.”
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