Municipality in Pakistan Bans Use of Derogatory Term for Christians and Sanitation Workers
12/15/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), a municipality in Pakistan has banned the use of a derogatory slur often used against sanitation workers and Christians.
“All citizens, officers, and employees of the Municipal Committee of Attock are informed that from now onwards sanitary workers will not be called by the word chuhra,” Malik Rahir Awan, Vice-Chairman of the Municipal Committee of Attock said in a December 10 notification. “Legal action will be taken against violators. Officers should not only respect their subordinates, but also sensitize them to give importance and respect to the general public.”
According to a study done by WaterAid, approximately 80% of Pakistan’s sanitation workforce are Christian despite only making up 2% of the country’s population. This is due to extreme levels of discrimination in Pakistan where Christians are intentionally hired for sanitation jobs due to an association between their faith identity and perceptions of spiritual purity.
The term chuhra is an abusive term, historically reserved for sanitation workers. The term refers to an individual’s heritage as a member of a low caste community associated with the profession of street sweeping, a profession considered spiritually impure.
Because many members of this low caste community converted to Christianity, an association between being Christian and low caste was formed. Presently, the term chuhra is used as a derogatory slur against all Christians, regardless of their profession.
In 2018, minority members of the Punjab Assembly held an emergency press conference after Arif Abbasi, a Muslim lawmaker, called a Christian parliamentarian a chuhra during a heated debate.
“Very encouraging to see that government officials are trying to break the stigma attached with our sanitation heroes,” Sweepers Are Superheroes stated in a Facebook post. “Whatever name/title is chosen for sweepers; it should be coupled with dignity and respect.”
“The derogatory term of chuhra is the first foundation of insult, hatred and discrimination aimed at minority Christians,” Mary James Gill, a former Christian lawmaker, told UCAN. “The rest of the municipalities should set this deterrence. Thankfully, awareness is increasing in our society. We only demand acceptance and dignity.”
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