Acid attacks are a heinous crime existing not only in Pakistan but all around the globe as well. However, this issue is seen mainly as an issue of the developing world because of being rampant in such countries. For instance, India has the highest number of acid attacks globally every year. Most of the committed crimes in Pakistan and rest of the South Asia are committed by rejected suitors or by husbands. Often in-laws are also involved with prime reason either being family feud or dowry related issues. around 90 percent of the attacks are carried out by men and the majority of the victims are women. South Punjab in Pakistan has reported the highest number of acid attacks since 2006. However, since, 2014 there has been a substantial decline in incidents of acid attacks.
Pakistan is a signatory to the following international commitments on acid and burn attacks:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
- Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
- Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
- Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women.
All these international commitments have one thing in common: protection of human rights and protection against any kind of violence regardless of the gender along with special attention to violence against women. It is because in the cases of any sort of violence women are the main victims.
The main issue behind prevalence of acid and burn crimes in Pakistan does not lie in lack of laws, rather in their effective implementation and the patriarchal social fabric of the society that urges men in wanting to have a power over women. This mindset is the prime reason of acid attacks by the rejected suitors. The acid and burn crimes do not have a legislative face only but social stigmas and power play by the patriarchy are huge contributing factors to the recurrence of such crimes in a society. Pakistan has taken following legislative measures to counter acid attacks in the country:
- Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010
- Acid Throwing and Burn Crime Bill, 2012
Cruelty met beauty for Pakistan’s acid and burn victims when renowned Pakistani beautician Masarrat Misbah became a messiah for acid and burn victims. Her Smile Again Foundation came into existence in 2003 with an aim to help acid attack victims and remove the stigmas attached to it. This foundation offers the victims medical services because an acid attack victim has to undergo around 20-25 surgeries over many years to recover a part of their face, although even that is not always possible.
Apart from medical services, the Foundation offers the victims training and education, including help in completing college degrees or doing nursing courses. However, the specialty of the Foundation lies in training these women as beauticians and giving them an opportunity to work in outlets of the chains as well as helping them open their own salons in their city.
This Foundation has been committed, since its inception, to provide the acid survivors not only with medical care and assistance but also an adequate chance to become productive, self-reliant members of the society that has ostracized them. the Foundation can be contacted at the given link
There is another dilemma for survivors of acid and burn in Pakistan: social stigmas and lack of social support form them after the incident. Patients suffer from huge changes in life perspectives after going through such an incident. They face changes in behavior, feelings paired with feelings of being ‘other’/alien in their own society. Psychological traumas cannot be neglected which stay with them for the rest of their lives along with the physical damage. Posta Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression are two manifestations.
Hospitals that deal with acid burn patients should work with NGOs to ensure social support to the victims. Ensuring social support at the time of treatment saves the victims from falling deep into the dungeon of despair and psychological traumas. Moreover, there is a need to increase acceptance towards such victims without making them feel anything less than perfect human beings. There is also a dire need to ensure that speedy justice is given to them. Speedy justice will create deterrence against such heinous crimes and will lessen the crime rate in the long run in Pakistani society. The presence of legislation merely on paper will not resolve the issue until and unless there is effective implementation of all the existing laws.