By Samantha Shahzad*
On a bright gloomy day, while working on my computer, I was so happy to complete one of my important projects. While I was busy working, I heard a voice asking me, “can I get this backache medicine?” It was the voice of a colleague while I was searching for some official documents. While seated behind my seat, he pretended to be talking to someone else. It wasn’t the first time. I had heard these words from my male colleagues before.
At that time in 2020, I was a government employee. Most people from underprivileged backgrounds within minorities indeed face oppression. However, I would contest that our educational or financial status does not matter if we belong to a minority group. We are treated as commodities by the majority.
Similarly, these disgusting words of my colleague did not haunt me alone; I also encountered another incident. A private driver was hired to pick me up and drop me off at my office in 2020. During that time, I also began my further studies. I used to stay busy with my fellow students for combined studies on WhatsApp most of the time. My driver used to keep an eye on my ‘WhatsApp’ availability status, but I was totally unaware of it and his intentions.
Many times, while travelling back to home or office in his taxi, he said, “what diet do you people [Christian] take that makes your back strong for sitting all night?” I had no idea the person I trusted was keeping an eye on me. The question was intended to project a stereotype about Christian women, in which having sex with Christian women can give back pain relief.
The driver said, “some of my friends told me that having sex with a Christian woman would prevent backaches for a lifetime”. I felt like I was lower than any other creature. Even though I am human, I was considered a product to be used only when necessary.
I wanted to discuss it on Christian platforms, but it is taboo in our society. We cannot speak about sex-related issues in families openly. In this case, it was more than just harassment. A person attacked my honor because of my faith.
I talked with other Christian ladies working in different organizations and with university-going girls in this connection. They surprised me with their stories. Their colleagues’ comments about Christian women as backache medicine have affected several. However, they didn’t understand what they meant initially, just like I did. Some of them also said they had been approached, but they couldn’t tell even at home. A college student, Reena Joseph*, said while being the only female student in the class, “My classmates ask me for backache medicine and then laugh strangely”.
While visiting my cousin, I discussed this issue with her. Her husband warned us to be cautious when dealing with men of the majority sect. “Christian women are considered medicine for backache by the Muslim males”, he added.
Stereotypes and myths like this have poisoned society’s minds and have made it unsafe for Christian women. Christians in Pakistan should be protected from this myth, and NGOs and the media should provide proper counselling career sessions to emphasize the protection of minorities. For Pakistan to become a better place for us to live and enjoy our lives, we must protect minority females and their rights.
*Note: Names have been changed to protect the identities of the Interviewees and Author.