LAWYERS’ CONSULTATION ON ACID CONTROL & ACID CRIME PREVENTION BILL.
JUNE 24 2010
BEST WESTERN HOTEL
Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) is a Pakistani, non-profit organization working since 2006 to eradicate acid violence from Pakistan, and to promote the human rights of acid burn and other burn survivors, through a peaceful democratic process. It was officially registered in August 2007 under Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies(Registration and Control) Ordinance 1961.
1.1. Goal and directives of the organization
Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Pakistan has aimed for a four-component approach;
- To stop acid violence and prevent the proliferation of attacks
- To ensure survivors have the best available medical treatment in the long run as well
- To ensure survivors get justice, enjoy their human rights in accordance with Pakistani constitution and provide legal support to survivors.
- To assist the survivors in their rehabilitation process and provide rehabilitation services, including counseling and welfare support, skills training and income generating activities so that they survivors end up as proactive, empowered and autonomous citizens.
1.2. ASF standing
- At the regional and global levels, ASF receives the benefit of support and advice from the UK-based organization, Acid Survivors Trust International ASTI (www.asti.org).
- ASF-Pak is also an active member of EVAW (Eradication of Violence against Women) Alliance in Pakistan.
- ASF Pakistan has successfully completed a project with UNDP, UNOPS & DFID, Gender Justice and Protection (GJP) project.
- ASF Pakistan is coordinating and being supported by UNIFEM, UNDP, INGAD & Civil Society Organizations for holding consultations over the Acid Control & Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 so that it can successfully become an Act of Parliament at a national and provincial level.
1.3. Achievements of ASF
- Establishment of a Nursing Care & Rehabilitation Unit (NCRU), the only Nursing Care Rehabilitation Unit for burn victims in Pakistan.
- Establishment of a Victim Notification Unit.
- The current statistics depict that acid violence prevails in majority areas among the citizens of Pakistan mostly in domestic settings and against women & girls (59% as per the ASF Notification Unit).
- 304 burn victims identified.
- 86 patients treated.
- 256 admissions (including 174 surgical interventions).
- Psychological counseling of all the patients.
- Provision of legal referrals, aid and support (42 Cases till date as per the ASF Legal Support Report 2009)
- Provision of socio-economic support & rehabilitation.
- First acid attack case taken to the Supreme Court of Pakistan (2009) based on a suo moto action taken by the Chief Justice, making it the first Pakistani Court Decision ever (November 20, 2009) publicly and officially, requesting the Government of Pakistan to formulate the relevant legal framework to deal with the issue of acid violence in Pakistan.
- A national consultation process over the Acid Control & Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 (as tabled in National Assembly on January 26, 2010) with the support of UNIFEM, UNDP, INGAD and civil society organizations.
Acid violence is a global phenomenon highly present in South Asia. Acid violence is a particularly atrocious form of violence, usually occurring, with regard to Pakistan, in domestic settings and most often directed against women. Acid is cheap and freely available in cotton-growing districts of Pakistan, particularly in the Seraiki belt of southern Punjab and Northern Sindh. It is used as a tool of violence, usually directed at the face of the victim.
Acid can be thrown for a variety of reasons such as family feuds, land dispute, refusal of marriage, suspected infidelity or rejection of a sexual advance. The effects of acid violence include serious physical harm such as loss of eyes and limbs, corrosion of organs, and subsequent infections as well as social ostracism. Throwing acid on someone, therefore, not only means destroying their face but also their life. Despite the horrific nature of this crime, to date there are very few services available for victims. According to ASF Notification Unit (2009), 304 burn cases have been notified till date out of which 290 are acid attack cases.
Recently, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr. Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry took a suo moto action in an acid attack case and ordered the Government to pass legislation related to acid violence and acid trade as done by Bangladesh in 2002. He also ordered the Government to provide free medical care and rehabilitation facilities of acid burn survivors in Pakistan, in addition to acknowledging the work of ASF Pakistan.
ASF with the support of UNIFEM & Ministry of Women Development is in the process of holding a series of consultations on the proposed Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill with legal experts and activists. This will be done in close coordination with EVAW Alliance and GRAP. It will be an important tool to safeguard the rights of acid burn survivors against this atrocious and heinous crime and will go a long way for an Acid Violence Free Pakistan!
OBJECTIVE OF THE CONSULTATION:
Identify strengths and improving areas in the proposed legislation with the help of lawyers and legislative experts to establish an efficient legal framework which would regulate and monitor acid trade, punish perpetrators, and give acid burn survivors access to comprehensive rehabilitation services, to guarantee & safeguard their basic human rights in line with the Constitution of Pakistan and International Conventions such as CEDAW, CRC.
- 1. INTRODUCTION, BACKGROUND AND EVENT OBJECTIVES:
Ms. Valerie Khan, Chairperson, Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Pakistan, gave a welcome speech to all the participants explaining the agenda of the consultation meeting & the role of participants in this meeting. Participants were also asked to introduce themselves.
She explained that the Acid Control & Acid Crime Prevention Bill was previously passed as a ‘Private Member Bill’ by Women Parliamentarians, Ms. Marvi Memon, Ms. Anushay Rehman and Begum Shenaz Wazir Ali, but due to the shortcomings in this Bill it could not be taken up to the Senate. By virtue of this consultation, we would not only critically assess the loopholes in this Bill but would also discuss the recommendations for the new draft of the Bill, which would then be presented in the National Assembly by the Ministry of Women Development (MoWD) as a ‘Government Bill’.
- 2. PRESENTATION OF THE ACID BURN PHENONMENON
Ms. Sana Masood, Head of Projects & Legal Coordinator, Acid Survivors Foundation, explained the Acid Burn Phenomenon in Pakistan, which is prevalent in the Seraiki/Cotton Belt. Acid in these areas is largely used for agricultural uses, but has other uses as well, such as industrial, commercial and domestic uses. Due to weak licensing and monitoring mechanisms acid is freely and widely available to the general public which is why in most cases acid is used as a tool of violence, especially in cases of domestic disputes (48% as per ASF Statistics 2009). Other reasons are refusal of marriage proposal, indecent or sexual advance (25%), in which the face of the victim is usually targeted with acid. This may cause permanent disfigurement, loss of limbs, loss of eyesight and even death. Majority of the victims are women but men and children have also been a target of this heinous form of violence. Men usually get attacked due to money disputes or professional animosities. Children, are often the collateral damage of acid attacks on their parents or siblings, or if they are present in the same vicinity at the time of the acid attack.
She also explained that acid violence is a global phenomenon and is also occurring in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Uganda, Columbia, UK, etc. However, these countries including Pakistan have realized the need for specific legislation dealing with acid violence & acid trade, and are working towards it.
- 3. PRESENTATION BY LEGAL CONSULTANT
Barrister Naveed Khan, Legal Consultant working with ASF and UNIFEM to draft the new Bill, gave a speech regarding the current legislation in Pakistan and the flaws in the Bill presented in the National Assembly on January 26 2010. He also referred to the Chief Justice’s Decision and expressed the need to incorporate the clause related to free medical care and rehabilitation for acid burn survivors in the new Bill, and the need to establish a licensing mechanism to monitor and regulate acid trade.
He directed the lawyers to first critically analyze & assess this Bill in groups of three and four, and then noted down all criticisms group-wise.
After the tea break, the second part of the consultation substantially focused on the recommendations for the new Bill. A set of questions were distributed to all the participants in order to discuss the mechanisms and solutions for different issues pertaining to acid violence in Pakistan. All recommendations for the new draft discussed at the consultation were duly recorded in writing by the ASF team and the Legal Consultant.
At the end of meeting, the ASF team thanked the participants for their contributions and welcomed detailed feedbacks over email. Ms. Valerie Khan also made an announcement of the Second Consultation on the Bill with CBOs, NGOs, Human Rights Activists, Stakeholders and Lawyers which is due end of July 2010.