Fighting prejudice

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KARACHI: In the Pahar Ganj slum, commonly known as Bhangi Para, in northern Nazimabad, a group of young men are sitting at their usual haunt and reportedly drinking alcohol.

These unemployed young people say they have nothing to do with their lives; every night they drink moonshine and after getting drunk they indulge in banter involving foul language.

Sometimes they get caught up in physical fights and locals, tired of their behavior, call them “parasites”.

Technically speaking, Pahar Ganj is no longer a health worker area as the district has also produced a large number of doctors, engineers, academics and paramedics. However, being minorities, they are often decried by people who call them derogatory even though they are accomplished professionals.

“The fight that we still carry on is to abolish the taboo attached to all minorities,” said James Arif, who runs a social welfare trust that helps underprivileged young people get an education.

Arif wants all young people in the region to be able to quit street cleaning work and start what are considered more respectable jobs in Pakistani society.

“There are several NGOs working quietly in minority communities and helping them with education,” he said. “This is the fight we must continue until victory is achieved.”

Fighting stereotypes

Rafiq Sharif, leader of the retired health workers’ union, also lives in the same neighborhood. He said they had a long struggle in which they fought to call themselves health workers instead of the typical and offensive labeling of “bhangi” or “kundi”. It was important for people to respect them but it seems that all their efforts were in vain.

“Now people call us health workers or health workers instead of bhangi, but they think we’re still untouchable and people shouldn’t share a glass of water with them.” people of Karachi, we don’t face the same taboos that our brothers in the interior of Sindh and Punjab would face, to gain respect we have to be educated and have to quit this horrible job,” he commented. .

The Constitution of Pakistan, in Article 25(1), guarantees that “all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law”. Article 5 states that “adequate provisions must be made to enable minorities to profess and practice their religion freely and to develop their culture”.

Unfortunately, much remains to be done in this regard with regard to minorities, commented the Secretary General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Harris Khalique.

“What should we do as a community to increase tolerance so that all Pakistani citizens accept each other and have equal rights to live here? he asked.

The Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) in a report titled “How Pakistani Media Reports on Minority Issues” stated that local media did not intend to include minority issues. minorities in general.

The report further indicates that half of journalists experience pressure from various social groups when reporting on religious minorities.

Professional risks

According to Rafiq, sanitation workers contract several diseases including Hepatitis C. “We have to go deep into the gutter where the water goes into our ears and our mouths and sometimes we end up swallowing the water from the gutter.”

James Arif explained, “Our people are professors, doctors, engineers and others who have proven themselves in all sectors of society, but people still regard us as bhangis.”

Dr Beenish Shoro, head of psychiatry at a government hospital, said: “Social anxiety is more common among minorities because they think people are watching and judging them too much.” She added that psychiatric illnesses in Pakistan are widespread but the consequences are often worse, more severe and longer in minority groups. “The stigma associated with seeking help is also higher among them,” she explained.

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