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PAKISTAN: Acid attacks continue to be a serious concern

January 29, 2010
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Korean

The AHRC has received photographs from Mr. Javed Kapoor showing the extent of the gender-based violence in Pakistan and the concrete consequences of the misogynist mindset which is spreading within the Pakistani middle-class. The AHRC is working on those acid throwing cases as part of its involvement for denouncing human rights violations across Asia.

On January 26, 2010, a bill regarding Acid violence, which would specifically target those crimes by stating higher punishments for the attackers and by regulating the sale and purchase of acid have been submitted to the National Assembly of Pakistan. But this only marks the beginning of a long legislative process and it will require some time before the law is successfully adopted and effectively enforced. It will also require a strong political will which, until now, have proven inadequate, if not, inexistent. Indeed, in most of those cases, the judicial institutions have not taken stern sanctions against the perpetrators, which have often been able to act and walk away in total impunity. Nor has adequate compensation and support been granted to the victims.

Irum Saeed, 30, poses for a photograph at her office at the Urdu University of Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, July 24, 2008.
Irum was burned on her face, back and shoulders twelve years ago when a boy whom she rejected for marriage threw acid on her in the middle of the street.
She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times to try to recover from her scars.
Shameem Akhter, 18, poses for a photograph at her home in Jhang, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 10, 2008.
Shameem was raped by three boys who then threw acid on her three years ago.
Shameem has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to try to recover from her scars.
Shehnaz Usman, 36, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008.
Shehnaz was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute five years ago.
Shehnaz has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to try to recover from her scars.
Najaf Sultana, 16, poses for a photograph at her home in Lahore, Pakistan on Wednesday, July 9, 2008.
At the age of five Najaf was burned by her father while she was sleeping, apparently because he didn't want to have another girl in the family.
As a result of the burning Najaf became blind and after being abandoned by both her parents she now lives with relatives. She has undergone plastic surgery around 15 times to try to recover from her scars.
Shahnaz Bibi, 35, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, ct. 26, 2008.
Ten years ago Shahnaz was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute.
She has never undergone plastic surgery.
Kanwal Kayum, 26, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008.
Kanwal was burned with acid one year ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage.
She has never undergone plastic surgery.
Munira Asef, 23, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008.
Munira was burned with acid five years ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage.
She has undergone plastic surgery 7 times to try to recover from her scars.
Memuna Khan, 21, poses for a photograph in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, Dec. 19, 2008.
Menuna was burned by a group of boys who threw acid on her to settle a dispute between their family and Menuna's.
She has undergone plastic surgery 21 times to try to recover from her scars.
Zainab Bibi, 17, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008.
Zainab was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage five years ago.
She has undergone plastic surgery several times to try to recover from her scars.
Naila Farhat, 19, poses for a photograph in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008.
Naila was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage five years ago.
She has undergone plastic surgery several times to try to recover from her scars.
Saira Liaqat, 26, poses for the camera at her home in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 9, 2008.
When she was fifteen, Saira was married to a relative who would later attack her with acid after insistently demanding her to live with him, although the families had agreed she wouldn't join him until she finished school.
Saira has undergone plastic surgery 9 times to try to recover from her scars.


The case of Naila Farhat (see picture below) has been brought to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in November 2008 and has received enormous publicity. In this specific case, the perpetrator was sentenced to 12 years of prison and ordered to pay Rupees1.2 millions in damages. This represents a landmark decisions in dealing with gender-related violence, but this judgment could not stop the menace of acid-throwing. This decision should not be a lure and we should be aware that this remains an exception in the landscape of acid attacks in Pakistan: in most cases the measures taken-if any- are still not proportionally related to the sufferings inflicted by the attacks.

Most of those acid-attacks are punishing measures toward women who have refused to accede to commands from men in their entourage and have stood against abuses from men in general. The effects of those acid attacks upon their life have been destructive: let alone the physical damages undergone (some of them are crippled for life, despite numerous surgical interventions) they have to face social isolation and ostracism from their community and the psychological trauma is enormous and long-lasting as well. a legislation can hardly act as a deterrent when the perpetrators know that if they have enough resources and leverages they can manage to get away from any charge that may be held against them, even in the case of such an atrocious crime.

From the victims¡¦ point of view, there is a high risk of denial of Justice and those obstacles may act as a strong disincentive, preventing them from reporting those attacks. Indeed, the status of women in Pakistan, subject on the one hand to pressures not to disgrace their families by filling a case, and on the other hand, to disdain from the police officers themselves, will add to the obstacles faced by any average Pakistani person seeking for Justice who have to deal with this corrupted policing system and administration. There is also a need to implement concrete measures to improve the police investigation system.

 

Document Type :
Statement
Document ID :
AHRC-STM-018-2010
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