Home Global Village Acid attacks continue to destroy lives

Acid attacks continue to destroy lives

acid attacks
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Mominah Zahid |

On January 31st 2018, a man in Malakand threw acid on his second wife and his daughter as a family feud erupted and took a dark turn. Acid attacks have become a horrifying reality for hundreds of women who are viciously attacked by men for various reasons such as the rejection of marriage proposals. The World Health Organization released a report in 2017 on violence against women in which it highlighted that 450 gender-based acid attacks take place in Pakistan every single year.

 It has also been reported that 99% of the culprits are male while 65% of acid and burn victims are women and girls. Between 2013 and 2016, there has been an alarming increase in acid attacks on children rising from 15% to 21.3%. The perpetrator of this heinous crime in Malakand escaped the crime scene after destroying the lives of both his wife and daughter. Hundreds of such violent and mentally disturbed men roam freely in the streets of Pakistan due to lack of legislation and severe negligence on the part of the law enforcement and security forces.

Thousands of women in this country continue to live with burned faces and shattered minds while we sit back and witness the destruction of their lives as passive observers.

Acid crime is defined as follows; “Acid Violence is the deliberate use of acid to attack another human being. The victims of acid violence are usually women and children, and attackers often target the head and face in order to maim, disfigure and blind. Acid attacks rarely kills but causes severe physical, psychological and social scarring and victims are often left with no legal resources, limited access to medical or psychological assistance and without the means to support themselves.” (ASTI 2011)

The acid survivors foundation has concluded that there are hundreds of acid attack cases that go unreported due to the stigma attached to the crime. The crime aims to take revenge on, deface and damage women as a punishment for rejecting a man or his wishes. This absurd reasoning is savage, barbaric and inhumane and the mindset that it reflects is capable of destroying the fabric of our entire society.

Read more: Acid attack victim Resham Khan shares recovery pictures on social media

According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, just in the last year countless such attacks have taken place. In June, Zeenat Rafiq, 18, was burned to death in Lahore by her mother because she had allegedly “brought shame to the family”. This irredeemable shame for which an 18-year-old was burned to death was the result of merely choosing the man she was going to marry which is an indisputable right that is allotted to every woman both constitutionally and religiously.

As a nation we need to ask ourselves why we have allowed the men in this society to not only believe but exercise complete authority over women. We need to not only create legislation that counters these repulsive practices but work on creating a system in which these crimes do not take place in the first place.

In May, a 19-year-old school teacher was tortured and burned in Murree for simply refusing an arranged marriage. The most outrageous incident that took place occurred in May where a body of a 16-year-old girl was found inside a vehicle that was burned to ashes on the order of the Traditional Assembly of Elders. This order to burn the girl alive in Abbottabad was the consequence of Amber helping a friend marry a man of her own choice.

This barbaric practice of acid throwing reflects a much larger issue than the execution of the crime. The issue revolves around the repulsive sense of entitlement that men in this society feel they have over women regardless of whether they are bound in matrimony or not.

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The frequency with which these acid attacks take place sheds light on the degrading mentality of the men in this country who believe that they have the inalienable right to torture and burn women who do not obey their commands and accept their proposals. This mentality that runs rampant in Pakistan is the reason that gender-based violence keeps increasing at an alarming rate and the severe lack of punishment to the perpetrators further exacerbates the situation.

Another harrowing reality that lies behind this objectionable practice of acid throwing is that 90% of the cases that are filed against the perpetrators remain undecided. A devastating statistic reveals that most of the victims of acid attacks are extremely poor and completely helpless when it comes to attaining justice. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, most of the acid attackers have a family link with the victim or are a member of their community.

This crime is not only restricted to Pakistan. Countries like Bangladesh have taken preventive steps in the form of legislation such as the Acid Control Act that completely prohibits the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale and use of acid, which is punishable with a prison sentence of 3 to 10 years.

Out of all the acid attacks that take place across Pakistan, Punjab has the highest rate as 85% of the attacks take place there followed by Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Islamabad and Kashmir. A common misconception regarding gender-based violence in the form of acid attacks is that it takes place in rural locations where the population is uneducated.

A member of the National Commission on Human Rights Chaudry Shafiq said that the worrisome reality was that a great number of gender-based violence cases are reported from highly educated families living in major cities. The number of acid attacks has decreased to a minimal extent in the past few years but it is nowhere near eliminated. These attacks continue to destroy the lives of the victims who are never able to fully integrate into society again.

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They are psychologically damaged, physically distorted and socially isolated after being the victim of these attacks. The continued widespread availability of acid in Pakistan is agonizing and shocking considering the amount of havoc that it has wreaked in the past decade. It is both cheap and accessible to the entire population and the fact that it completely ruins the life of its victim makes it the most practiced form of punishing women who stand up against the tyranny and oppression of some men.

This barbaric practice of acid throwing reflects a much larger issue than the execution of the crime. The issue revolves around the repulsive sense of entitlement that men in this society feel they have over women regardless of whether they are bound in matrimony or not.

This crime is not only restricted to Pakistan. Countries like Bangladesh have taken preventive steps in the form of legislation such as the Acid Control Act that completely prohibits the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale and use of acid, which is punishable with a prison sentence of 3 to 10 years. As a nation we need to ask ourselves why we have allowed the men in this society to not only believe but exercise complete authority over women.

We need to not only create legislation that counters these repulsive practices but work on creating a system in which these crimes do not take place in the first place. Thousands of women in this country continue to live with burned faces and shattered minds while we sit back and witness the destruction of their lives as passive observers.


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