From Print Edition
From 2007 to 2013, around 949 cases of acid attacks have been reported in the country. Among the total number, 519 were women whereas majority of cases (589) were reported from Punjab region.
The statistics were shared by the Chairperson Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Valerie Khan at the launch a report titled ‘Fostering Effective Implementation of Pro Human Rights Laws: Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011 (Act XXV), An Example of Good Practice.’ Valerie said that from January till March 2014, 40 cases of acid attacks have been reported in the country.
The report presents the efforts Pakistani government and civil society in improving the implementation of the above mentioned law. The event was organised by ASF in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women and Australian Aid.
The report highlighted that acid attacks reporting had increased (110 attacks in 2012 and 143 in 2013) which shows an encouraging trend to further break the silence and denounce violence against women and girls.
Additionally, the report insisted on the fact that police had made tremendous efforts to register due and correct FIRs under the new laws passed on December 12, 2011 when it faced acid attack cases. While only 1 per cent of the FIRs were registered under the correct law in 2012, 71 per cent of the FIRs registered in 2013 were under the new and correct law. The report mentions that many survivors still do not have sufficient or adequate access to medical and rehabilitation services, 65 per cent of the victims still could not access justice in 2013 and national consolidated data is still required.
Marvi Memon, the Chief Guest, declared that since 2010, Pakistan had come long way and she insisted that those improvements needed to be celebrated, but she also indicated that there was still a long way to go. She stressed that the “Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill” must be passed.
“Now there is sufficient momentum to support this bill, and we owe it to other survivors, we will continue the fight,” she said.
The event was attended by various stakeholders from different areas in Pakistan and it included law enforcement agencies representatives, lawyers, doctors, survivors, members of civil society media, acid survivors themselves.
The panel discussion after the report launch was chaired by Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women Khawar Mumtaz. Kishwar Zehra, MNA from MQM, was also amongst the panelists in addition to Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Peter Hayward and Chairperson ASF Valerie Khan Yusufzai.
All participants underlined the need to create awareness in order to challenge discriminatory and patriarchal mindsets, as well as transfer knowledge to achieve positive results in fostering law implementation. They were informed that judges now tend to punish far more severely in case of acid attack. before 2011, the average conviction was 6 to 10 years, now it is generally at least 20 years. It was shared that in general, convictions were more severe since 2012, and judiciary was trying to ensure trials in a shorter timeframe to provide relief to survivors since 2013.
Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumtaz termed it encouraging that more reporting occurred but she also insisted the need to work on data and build up synergies to face the remaining challenges.
Valerie Khan called upon the government to lead the way and pass the Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill that Marvi Memon has tabled in the Parliamentary Committee of Law and Justice last week. “We are ready to provide technical help to review the comprehensive bill, but it is urgent that the federal and provincial governments ensure stronger protection to Pakistani citizens. Pakistani has inspired many other countries to address acid violence such as Columbia and India but positive steps such as establishing burn centers and social rehabilitation centers, or medical boards must be part of a legislative framework to be sustained and institutionalized.”
Australian High Commissioner Peter Hayward congratulated all stakeholders for those improvements and reiterated Australia’s commitment to support ASF action.
Awards were later on distributed to police, lawyers and doctors from all over the country, what ASF called, the true heroes.