Monday October 18, 2021

Female gastroenterologist ‘facing harassment on ethnic and gender grounds’ at JPMC

September 18, 2021

A senior female physician in Karachi, who claims to be the only female gastroenterologist working at any public sector hospital in Pakistan, said on Friday she was being “harassed and black-mailed” on gender and ethnic grounds and being forced to quit her job.

“I’m incharge of the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Ward at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and the only female gastroenterologist working at any public sector hospital in entire Pakistan. I have been harassed and blackmailed for the last several months on the basis of my gender and ethnicity,” Dr Nazish Butt told The News.

She showed several WhatsApp and Facebook messages sent to her, accusing her of being a “non-Sindhi” and “a draconian lady”, who is not allowing “natives of the Sindh province” to work at the gastroenterology ward of the JPMC. She said she was even receiving calls from unknown numbers as well as written messages to quit her job.

“First of all, I’m a Pakistani citizen who was born in Karachi. I have studied in this city and graduated from the Sindh Medical College. I even married a person who is Sindhi-speaking, but still some people, including some staff members of the JPMC, are harassing me. They are doing negative propaganda against me, which has made me mentally disturbed,” Dr Nazish Butt said.

According to a recent study, Pakistan lacks trained and qualified female gastroenterologists despite the fact that over 80 per cent medical students who graduate from medical colleges are girls. In a conservative society like Pakistan, most women avoid visiting male doctors or their families don’t allow male doctors to perform any intervention or surgical procedure on their female relatives.

Claiming that female patients from Karachi, other cities of Sindh and South Punjab come to her ward at the JPMC for consultation as well as for having gastroenterological procedures like endoscopy and colonoscopy done free of charge, she said female gastroenterologists were very few in numbers in Pakistan, but some people were trying to force her to quit her job.

To a query, Dr Nazish Butt said she examined over 400 patients, mostly women at her OPD (Out-Patient Department), as women from far-flung areas visited the JPMC’s gastroenterology ward for treatment of their stomach, intestinal and liver diseases. She added that she along with her team also performed 15-20 endoscopies and colonoscopies in emergency when people came with internal bleeding and other issues.

“I have filed several complaints with the relevant authorities against this harassment and blackmailing. but now I want to make my ordeal public and urge the high authorities to take notice of this hooliganism. They call me a Punjabi woman, hurl abuses at me, put baseless posts on FB and then sent it to me and my colleagues on WhatsApp. This should end now,” she added.

Dr Nazish Butt maintained that she was bringing this issue to the notice of newly-appointed executive director at the JPMC, Dr Shahid Rasool, but she urged provincial health minister Dr Azra Pechuho to take notice of this harassment.

“I’m a woman and doctor like her. I treat patients without asking their ethnicity, gender, cast, creed, colour and anything else. I would request her to take notice of this issue of mine.” Responding to another query, Dr Nazish Butt said she was not aware if any other female employee of the JPMC was being harassed, but she added that some male doctors from other provinces had complained of facing such a behaviour at the health facility.