"Acid violence is a particularly outrageous form of violence that involves throwing corrosive acid at victims’ faces. This not only causes face disfiguration but also has a ruinous effect on the victims’ life. It usually occurs as one of the worst forms of domestic violence and is most often directed at women, and children are often collateral damage. The effects of acid violence include serious physical harm (loss of eyes and limbs, corrosion of organs, and subsequent infections such as septicaemia and gangrene). Acid survivors are disfigured for life. In addition to the inevitable psychological trauma, survivors also face social isolation and exclusion that further damage their self-esteem and seriously undermine their professional and personal future.
The number of acid attacks is particularly high in the southern part of Punjab, the south Asian country's cotton belt and second largest province. Naila Farhat became victim of an acid throwing attack by a spurned suitor from Layyah, a district of southern Punjab. She was thirteen when her elementary school teacher, and admirer whom she had rejected, assalted her on her way home from school in 2003. Farhat pressed charges and attended court sessions for six years, yet watched the teacher escape unpunished. Her ex-suitor, Irshad Hussein, was sentenced to twelve years in prison and fined 1.2 million rupees, the equivalent of $15,000. Hussein appealed and the sentence was decreased to four years and 110,000 rupees.
In November 2009 when Farhat petitioned the Supreme Court to reinstate the original sentence, she became the first woman to win an acid attack case. “Because this happened to me, other women can now go directly to the Supreme Court and be heard.” She has been pursuing her case for seven years and finally her dream came true last year.
Upcoming Supreme Court of Pakistan legislation namely “Acid Control and Burn Crime Prevention Bill 2010” is the fruit of Naila’s efforts and it will be tabled in the parliament soon. On June 24 2010, the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UNIFEM) held a consultation meeting for Acid and Prevention Bill 2010. The bill is being formulated by Ministry of Women Development (MoWD) in collaboration with these organizations. Several consultation workshops and meetings have been arranged to finalize the draft of the bill, aimed at controlling the import, production, transportation, boarding, sale, and use of acid to prevent the misuse of acid as a corrosive substance and to provide legal support to acid and burn victims. The Ministry of Law has divided it into two Bills: one for acid crime and other for acid control.
I sincerely hope this bill will get smooth passage in National assembly. When it was presented, religious conservatives in this government agency and in Parliament have spoken in opposition to the bill and empowerment of Pakistani women, and many subscribe to an interpretation of the Qur’an that states a man cannot be punished for violent discipline of family members."
Thank you Nighat Dad for contributing this guest post. Nighat Dad is a public prosecutor in Pakistan, and a research associate for Bytes for All. She’s a proactive social media user campaigning for an end to violence against women. Follow her on Twitter @nighatdad.